Red, Gold and Green: A Conversation with Olympic Golden Snowboarder Ross Rebagliati

By Jason Reed – http://norml-uk.org

As the world looks upon Sochi and the displays of icy greatness, the Winter Olympics is sure to create new heroes for us all to admire. Ross Rebagliati was no exception. The young Canadian was the first ever Olympic snowboarding gold medallist. Ross hit the headlines in Nagano’s 1998 Olympics, but the ride was far from smooth, and some irrevocable bumps forever litter the route of Ross’ golden achievement.  

Champion snowboarder Ross Rebagliati who tested positive for THC.

Gold medal Olympic snowboarder Ross Rebagliati

I started competing in ‘88, so it was essentially 10 years preparation for me to reach the 1998 Nagano Olympics. I was used to competing at senior level, but the Olympics are a different ballgame. An untold amount of preparation goes in; I was in the gym 3 hours a day, 6 days a week, lifting weights, cycling to stay in shape; we were on snow 200 days a year just training. It’s an unbelievable amount of time and sacrifice. You have no social life other than the people around the snowboarding scene. After a few months of being on tour, the phone stops ringing. 

Ross, now 43, tries to describe the unrelenting emotions that come with gaining a sport’s highest accolade,

Words cannot describe the sense of accomplishment when I actually won gold. The fact it’s all over is a relief. I had won, finally won, and it’s all worth it. To have the recognition that my peers respected me as an athlete began to hit home. That said, nothing is how you’d expect it. It took a while to sink in.

The buoyant celebrations soon became marred.

It was the next morning, we had the award ceremony and all the guys had finished their events. It was at this point that a few of us were in my room. A coach came in and told everyone to leave and that I needed to sit down. It was obvious something was up; I figured that it had to be something to do with the drug test given the timing of it all. I told my coach very early on that the only thing I could think of was that I showed positive for marijuana as it was the only thing I had been exposed to leading up to the Olympics. It was then discussed, ‘Ok, it won’t be the biggest problem in the world’ – I wouldn’t be the only athlete to test positive to cannabis and still retain the medal. There have been cases in the past where it’s all worked out.

After Ross was stripped of the gold medal, it soon became clear that there was a grey area – a very curious twist in the tale:

THC wasn’t on the banned substance list. This then begs the question: Why even take the medal away from me? It must have been embarrassing for the IOC to try to strip me of my medal for testing positive to a substance that wasn’t actually banned. It’s frustrating; my athletic accomplishments were overshadowed by what preceded. I became infamous for the wrong reasons.

We had stayed away from it [marijuana] on the world circuit. THC was banned, so we just assumed, and we didn’t question the IOC. We simply stayed away from all substances. Snowboarders are kind of a big family, so we don’t tend to want to enhance ourselves to outdo a fellow competitor.

It’s interesting to note that The World Anti-Doping Agency has now changed the threshold of THC in an athlete’s system from 15 nanograms per millilitre to 150 nanograms per millilitre. The decision was taken in May 2013 so as to minimise cases such as Ross’.

Ross Rebagliati continues,

There were a lot of parties. There was a wake on the lead up to the Olympics for a friend who was buried in an avalanche, and there was a lot of marijuana consumed around at this tragic event, but I hadn’t been smoking it myself at that time. I wasn’t consuming marijuana, but I also didn’t think I’d have to change my environment or alienate myself from my friends; I just wouldn’t use marijuana, it’s that simple really.

Retrospectively, and with cannabinoids shrouded in cultural ignorance, how did Ross’ countrymen react to him after the 1998 incident?

Instantly, there was an almost social revolution on the back of it. Canadians were very excepting of cannabis, so I received so much support. I came home to a hero’s welcome. The Prime Minister of Canada called me after I got my medal reinstated. He said that the country supported me and that I had handled myself really well. I had spent a night in a Japanese jail, so as you can imagine, when I was celebrated in such a way, well, that meant a lot to me.

Snowboarder and Olympian Ross Rebagliati with some medical marijuana.

Ross Rebagliati with Ross’ Gold medical cannabis.

It became apparent that culture had changed. People were open to sensible discussion on marijuana, and were ready to actually explore the benefits. I’m not sure if it’s more or less of a controversial issue now. It’s certainly a lot more mainstream. As we all know, Colorado and Washington have fully legalised, so things have certainly come on culturally. 

Ross Rebagliati is now embarking on a new trail:

We’re starting up Ross’ Gold here in Canada. There are new federal laws which we’re aligning ourselves with. We’re going to roll out extensions of the model in tandem with what laws will allow. Our government is a conservative government­­, but they are relaxing the laws so more access can be granted to medical marijuana. The red tape is getting cut a little.

Not only is Ross Rebagliati now in the process of starting his own medical marijuana programme in Canada under the symbolical banner of ‘Ross’ Gold’, but he has also become the go-to guy in media circles when cannabis and athletics become intertwined. Mild furore inevitably follows when an athlete is found with cannabis in their system, but times are certainly changing. The NFL are now in the process of early discussions; not only to turn a blind eye to THC in their football players’ systems, but they are further theorising as to whether to implement a medical marijuana programme for their athletes in efforts to curtail prescription drug dependency and promote harm reduction. The use of cannabis in sports has been contentious in the past, but now seems to be on a platform of legitimacy. Many supreme athletes such as Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt have admitted regular cannabis use, so what potential benefits could there be in sports? Referring to cannabis and high CBD strains under the moniker of ‘Ross’ Gold’, the gold medallist comes up with a spontaneous list.

Possible benefits for Ross’ Gold (cannabis) in sports?

  • Ross’ Gold is the best jet lag cure. Makes for quick recovery from frequent long haul travel with different time zones.
  • Ross’ Gold keeps appetite healthy for maximum fuel intake to sustain high output over the season. Often appetite is lost due to jet lag and the different eating and sleeping cycles.
  • CBD is potentially one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory substances that we know of. It’s perfect for after workouts, post injury, post operation and general aches and pains from long term athletics; training, competing, or simply living life to its fullest. CBD is also incredible for anti-stress and anti-anxiety.

The list continues…

  • Ross’ Gold is excellent for getting quality sleep, which in turn has several key benefits: Mental strength and muscle growth/recovery to name just a few. These are key elements for any athlete.
  • Ross’ Gold is fat free, has zero calories; it can get you to bed early and up early in the morning feeling fresh and ready to go. No alcoholic hangover! It doesn’t impair your judgment like other substances, and it does not impair your physical ability.
  • Ross’ Gold is the safest drug known — there has never been a death associated with it. Early indication shows it could reduce some brain injuries due to concussions.
  • It’s a responsible alternative to alcohol/tobacco use and is not physically addictive. And that’s just off the top of my head.

The wider issue of global cannabis policy is progressing, but what does Ross think of the immediate future?

We’re looking at a cultural issue; some countries are more open to the debate than others. We’re on a different platform now, the scientific evidence is there proving benefits and dispelling the propaganda. The economic benefits are too hard to ignore. There aren’t that many overnight multi-million dollar industries and we’re looking at one right here.

When politicians start seeing that this is a vote swinger, then you have momentum. We’re heading towards an election here in Canada and some are using the legalisation issue as their platform. I think we’re at that crucial stage now.

So many people use marijuana responsibly. I clearly do not advocate underage use, or to consume irresponsibly, but the sheer amount of honest, normal, family oriented people that have lost jobs or freedom over their marijuana use… how can we justify this? We’re still maintaining this policy that rips families apart simply because of the law. The only people that profit from this are the underground industries and organised crime.

Ross Rebagliati concludes,

Global change is happening faster than we expected. As I said, once we see politicians riding the bandwagon, you know something is changing, and when it does, it’ll change quickly.

Ross' Gold medical marijuana.

Ross’ Gold cannabis.

*Note – Ross’ Gold will be rolled out in Canada under the following model; Ross Rebagliati takes the time to explain:

We’re going with an e-Commerce based operation which will be in compliance with new Canadian federal law. We have partnered with producers across Canada who will be supplying our distribution centre. We will fulfil prescriptions and have next day delivery via bonded courier from our distribution centre. In addition to this we will be offering our patients actual medical clinics where they can see our accredited physicians (doctor or nurse practitioner) for professional advice, recommendations, and potentially a prescription. Patients would receive a personal prescription identification code that they would use to access our web based dispensary system. Once the patient has successfully used RossesGold.com to obtain their prescription and received next day delivery via bonded courier; the Ross’ Gold container itself is the legal entitlement to possess the medicinal cannabis. It will look like a regular prescription.

We have four categories: Ross’ Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze. All will be used to categorise our strains based on THC and CBD ratios. Platinum will have the highest THC levels (+20%) and Bronze will have virtually no THC but rich in CBD.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————Thanks to our friends at norml-uk.org and Jason Reed for writing such a fantasitic article and letting us source it here.  Make sure you visit their website for lots of great pro-legalization literature. 

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Foreign Media Interviews

With the Olympic games fast approaching and Ross’ Gold gaining more and more publicity everyday, the requests from media outlets asking to conduct interviews with me are seemingly endless.  One in particular however, really spiked my interest lately, a foreign media outlet based over seas. Unfortunately I can’t mention who did the interviews due to a confidentiality agreement, but they are leaders in the media world of this country. 

 Based out of a country rich in both Olympic Spirit and winter Olympians, I originally assumed they were mostly interested in a basic ‘Where are they now’  story typical to Olympic Television programs before the games start.  I was quite taken aback when they mentioned they had been reading about Ross’ Gold and were more interested in covering the new business venture I’m involved in.  Why was I taken aback? Well, this country is quite a conservative country, especially in regards to it’s drug policy. A very small percent of their population smoke or support legalization of any kind.  Just to put this into perspective, approximately 12% of the adult population have ever tried marijuana, verses Canada and USA at almost 50%.  I saw this as a fantastic opportunity to open some eyes over seas and even help sway public opinion in favour of safe marijuana use. 

 The TV crew arrived and set up in our Ross’ Gold head office for the first round of interviews, then we drove over to near by Green Lake, which boasts perfect view of Whistler Mountain. The next day, we all drove to one of our growers so the cameras could get a first hand look at how these growers operate and run the facilities.  We made a quick stop at Porteau Cove on the way for another beautiful British Columbia backdrop and some more interview questions.  Once we arrived at the grow facility, we set up the interview in a drying room so I could show the camera some dried cannabis and explain to the viewers about the growing process, legalization, and the medicinal properties.  I was really happy with the interview and really don’t think it could have gone any better.  With that, the crew packed up their equipment and hopped on a plane back home.

The crew did a fantastic job and were professional the whole way along, I can’t wait to see the finished product.  I’ll share the link once it’s been edited and put together, in the meantime, it’s off to another interview with the next TV crew!   

 

Ross Rebagliati

 

 

 

 

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Revelstoke Opening Day `

 

When you get the opportunity to get the first gondola up Revelstoke Mountain on opening day, you don’t pass it up! Well that’s exactly what happened when the company Snow Seekers in conjunction with Backside Tours came up with a ‘Signature Experience’ package where their customers can purchase a ski holiday and have me guide them around the mountain for the day.  They had arranged for everything before hand, they just needed do some promotional filming for their website. 

The buzz was amazing, everyone was beyond excited and it was just great to see all those smiling faces everywhere.  It really was a fun to see all those powder hungry skiers and boarders lined up, eagerly waiting to get up there and shred some of the perfect conditions that were awaiting them.  We used to opportunity to film them all rushing out of the gondola at the top, we weren’t about to steal the first lines from the people who had been waiting for hours… although it was tempting! 

The conditions were literally perfect with dry interior powder, hardly any lift lines, no exposed rocks or sticks, and we had a great crew of filmers and friends to make for a really enjoyable day! 

The promo video turned out great. Hopefully it draws in some customers to book the ‘Signature Experience!’  Click the link below to see the finished video!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgJmAX7kgs4&feature=youtu.be

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CNN Filming Day

When I picked up the phone one morning, I was quite surprised to hear it was a representative of CNN International on the other end looking to come meet and film me for an Olympic preview show they were making for the upcoming Sochi Games.  They proposed we go up the mountain to teach the correspondent, named Jasmine, to snowboard.  I thought it was a great idea, so with that CNN was coming to Whistler!

 

After getting our snowboard gear for the day directly from the Prior factory and filming a segment in the shop we were ready to head up the mountain.  The only catch was that the mountain wasn’t going to be open for another week. However, with a little help from our friends at Whistler Blackcomb, we were able to head up to do some filming and teach Jasmine how to snowboard!  We were only able to utilize a small portion of the mountain as they were busy getting ready for opening day, but it was perfect for what we needed. 

 

Jasmine was a great student and she caught on quickly. I hadn’t taught someone to snowboard in years, so it was a fun day for both of us.  The weather really cooperated for the filming with blue skies and not much wind, so hopefully the shots they got will look great! 

-Ross Rebagliati 

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At the top of the Whistler gondola

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Mic’d up!

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Filming in front of the Whistler inukshuk

 

 

Our trip to Vancouver Island

We had been trying in vain to find a time where all 3 of us could co-ordinate our schedules for an island trip for the whole summer.  Our order for Ross’ Gold one hitters and other handmade items was complete so we decided it was as good a time as any to head over to Shawnigan Lake and see our manufacturer, Neil MacPherson with Hipwood Crafts, to pick up our order.  The timing worked out so we had a brief window to get to and from the Island all in one day, a very daunting task.  Anyone who has taken the ferry can attest this is not easy to pull off.  With our trip planned out to the minute, we were ready to go.

 Ian picked me up in Whistler at around 5:00am so we could pick up Patrick at Lonsdale Quay and then head back up highway 99 to Horseshoe Bay for the 8:30am ferry crossing. It was pouring rain the whole time, not a very fun drive in the dark, but by the time we were on the ferry the rain was turning into beautiful sunshine which made for a terrific trip across the Straight.

 Once we landed in Nanaimo we headed straight over to Shawnigan Lake to meet Neil at his home workshop.  Neil was a fantastic host, gave us a tour of his shop and loaded us up with some great products for our website.  These are beautiful pieces, handmade from exotic woods from all over world and with the brass accents they are really beautiful, we are very happy to be working with him! Unfortunately, time was not on our side and we had a ferry to catch, so we had to depart sooner than we would have liked! The trip back across to the mainland was uneventful and quiet.  It was a good chance to have a nice rest as we had a big day in Whistler planned for the following day. CNN international was coming up to do some filming for an upcoming special on former Olympic athletes and what they are doing now!

Make sure you check out our next blog entry for details on the CNN film day!

Ross Rebagliati

 

 

 

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The clouds parted for a beautiful trip across the straight. 

 

 

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Patrick and I brushing up on some pot culture knowledge

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The reason for our trip was to pick up our order of amazing handmade one hitters

Ross’ Gold Team Visits Toronto.

With airline tickets in hand and hotel rooms booked in downtown Toronto, Patrick, Ian and myself were ready for our first official Ross’ Gold business trip.  Months of hard work was finally coming together and we had a very full itinerary of people to meet, contracts to sign and maybe even try to have a little fun along the way.  We were excited to say the least.

The first meeting of the trip was with Millan Curry-Sharples, Producer and casting director of Thunderbird Films.  We had been in contact with him prior to our arrival to Toronto in regards to creating a reality TV show about the growth and development of Ross’s Gold, as well as covering the day to day lives of the Ross’ Gold team.  Millan was very excited about what we are doing and will be travelling to BC to start filming a Sizzle Reel, which is a short episode to show prospective TV stations, in early December. You may be watching the Ross’ Gold reality show before you know it!

Once we parted ways with Millan, we meet with our new joint-venture partners in the lobby of the hotel.  After some introductions and handshakes had been made, they wanted to take us to a friend’s medical dispensary, CALM (Cannabis As Living Medicine). The owner, Neev, was very welcoming, informative and passionate about medical marijuana and the people who benefit from it for medicinal purposes. Neev showed us some of his various strains and educated us a little further on which patients benefit from which strains.  We were also put in contact with a strain specialist out of British Columbia to help develop our own strains of Ross’ Gold, Silver, Bronze and Platinum.

After such a productive and successful day, we all figured a little celebration was in order.  We had a great dinner that night at a restaurant called ‘The Chase’ with our new partners and a few friends. Great food, better company and a nice bottle of wine made for a fantastic night.

The next day, we were offered ticket so we headed up to the Toronto Snow Show to take a look, meet a few people in the ski industry and have some fun relaxing after a hectic first day. The hospitality was great, the deals were even better and it was just a really fun day being surrounded by fellow winter lovers! We watched the Oakley Pro Am Rail Jam in the parking lot; these kids were really putting on a show.  It really got me excited for the fast approaching winter season, I am ready to go ride some pow, bring on the snow!

With all of the meetings done, it was time for us to return home to the West Coast to prepare for the next exciting phase of developing Ross’ Gold!

Ross Rebagliati

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One King West, our home in Toronto for the weekend.

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Millan and I brainstorming some episode ideas for the TV show.

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Our General Manager, Ian and I during a meeting in the lobby of the hotel.

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Meeting with our new joint-venture partners.

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Patrick learning about some potential strains we may be offering to our patients.

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Throwback with the GS board on display at the Toronto Snow Show. Brings back lots of memories!

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Having a great dinner with friends and partners!

Gran Fondo Penticton

The Ross’ Gold team arrived at the start line bright and early in our brand new team jerseys.  Our team consisted of myself, my father Mark, who is a geologist that searches for mineral deposits and gold (the real gold!), and our team-clothing supplier, Amoreena Penta.  Our Ross’ Gold team jersey’s were generating tons of questions and comments at the start line, it was great to see some many people interested in what we are doing and how much support everyone was giving us!

With all the positivity surrounding us, we were full of energy and enthusiasm for the start of the race.  Dad had a goal in mind and I was there to support him along the way, so with that we were off.  We got separated from Amoreena relatively early on, so it was father and son riding together for the duration of the race.  The sun was pounding down on us, the heat was relentless but we were motivated and feeling strong.  We tore past the first few fueling stations with no hesitation, our rhythm and tempo was perfect.  Before we knew it, we had the end in sight and pushed hard for the finish line.  Dad beat his personal goal by 2 hours! Honestly, if I was riding by myself I don’t think I would have done much better; I was both impressed and proud of his performance.

All in all, the day was a huge success!  The interest in the team jerseys inspired us to order more and sell them on the site, so keep an eye out and you can have your own Ross’ Gold team jersey soon. We are already planning to ride in other races, so come out and show your support for the team!

-Ross Rebagliati.

The start line a few minutes before the start of the race.

The start line a few minutes before the start of the race.

Lots of bikes, ready to roll.

Lots of bikes, ready to roll.

The father and son team, pre-race.

The father and son team, pre-race.

Showing off the Ross' Gold team bike jerseys after the race.

Showing off the Ross’ Gold team bike jerseys after the race.