If you don’t know the story of Ross Rebagliati, you’re missing out on a truly crazy experience with roots so Canadian it will leave you smoking a spliff in a snow fort and drinking maple syrup.
We recently got in touch with cannabis entrepreneur, family man and Olympic gold medalist, Ross Rebagliati.
Ross attended the 1998 Nagano Olympics to compete in the first Olympic snowboarding event (ever), and would end up winning gold, only to get the medal stripped and reinstated in the days following due to testing positive for THC.
Rebagliati’s story so unique at the time, Ross was featured on every major talk show with the likes of Jay Leno taking interest in the successes and challenges encountered by the Canadian snowboarder.
Below our team sits down with Ross to get the details of what happened behind the scenes at the 1998 Olympics and see what Ross is up to in 2020.
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Ross! Thanks for sitting down with us. Tell us a little a bit about your early years snowboarding and how cannabis became such a massive part of your life growing up.
I started snowboarding in 1987 after ski racing for 6 yrs. I was already 15 but at the time snowboarding was still prohibited across North America. I competed from 88-91 on the BC amateur snowboard circuit. Lots of free riding and zero training was the method.
I was 19 when I dropped out of college and moved to Whistler from Vancouver to pursue my snowboarding career. That’s when I learned weed was away bigger part of sports and healthy living then I ever could’ve imagined. The athlete’s I met were ultra endurance and used cannabis all day long. They also didn’t really drink, went to bet rather early and woke up even earlier to capitalize on endless powder adventures in the winter and Mt Bike rides in the summer. Those rides eventually turned me onto road biking.
There was also physcadelics like shrooms and LSD but alcohol never found its place amongst us(mostly). With cannabis I could relax 100% and perform at 100% day in day out.
Did cannabis impact or enhance your snowboard abilities at all, did you find medical benefits in it when it came to pain management or injuries, or was it kinda just part of the BC culture?
Cannabis is part of the BC culture and I can remember smelling it on the chairlift when I was a kid and nobody ever cared. It was everywhere. When I started using cannabis on a regular (19 yrs) it was for many reasons. Despite what the messaging was from the prohibition message at the time, I felt like it was a healthy choice over drinking and cigarettes etc.
Furthermore it enhanced my awareness of everything from my surroundings to danger to the beauty as well as helping me with how I felt on my board. It helped me realize a bad situation more easily. To bed early, up early, great apatite,.no hangovers… beauty.
Snowboarding is known to be tough on the body from the hard impacts through injuries – do you think cannabis has a place in professional snowboarding, and as a medical ailment for snowboarders in general, and how so?
Cannabis does have a place in sport. Among other things one of its most beneficial uses is to help cure and prevent concussions.
CBD has the ability to help the brain recover from trauma and coats it in a kind of plasma that acts as a impact cushion between the brain and your skull. This is crucial for extreme sports athlete’s including sports like the NFL. CBD’s anti- inflammatory qualities are second to none and are very effective when used topically on location. Cannabis is calorie free and “keto: friendly so great for those athlete diets and the lifestyle that goes with it.
The benefits are endless.
As someone who competed at the highest level of snowboarding, does cannabis have a place in professional sport when it comes to performing in front of cameras and crowds? How can cannabis help with the anxiety of being on a massive stage such as the one you achieved?
I’d say due to the nature of cannabis that using it during competition at that level is not something most people would subject themselves too lol. Its more of a private thing that doesnt need to be used necessarily at the time of the performance. Rather I used cannabis the day before and the night after but never really during completion at that level. Nothing like being baked with a TV camera in your face with strangers everywhere.
Not to mention it was very illegal and banned world-wide. In those days you had to hide before you puffed. It was fun like that though. As far as helping with anxiety, it’s the days you do use it that teaches you to be patient and more relaxed when your not using it. It trains your mind to chill out. Cannabis isnt something you use lightly. I mean you have to pick your time. You have to make time for it. Like a meditation.
The 1998 Nagano Olympics
First of all, how was the Olympics? Do you have any funny stories, memories? Did you guys have any reefer out there in Japan?
The Olympics were epic. A dream come true in many ways. The first one for snowboarding!! That made it even more awesome.
One wild memory was rather unfortunate for one of my teammates and favorite to win. I watched him accidently wreck his board the night before. I tried to help him that night but he declined. I wanted to drill holes through his board to insert Tbolts as he had just striped the healy coil attaching the derby plate to his board. It let go when he was leading with the fastest time on the first run. Not funny but it did happen.
Other athletes who will remain anonymous got kicked out of Japan for being too drunk after not winning. Some even stole a front end loader and took it for a spin. Not sure the Olympics was ready for us. Haha reefer isn’t really something found in Japan easily so it wasn’t ever on the menu when we were there. Europe yes.. Amsterdam was a dream world to me in the 90’s.
Post-race you get drug tested. How did this go down?
After the race they brought us (top 3) into an army tent set up by the finish line where we peed into a cup. We got IOC drug test pins. I later tested positive for THC and was stripped of the gold for two days until I won my appeal on grounds THC was not on the list of banned substances. Classic
You made an appearance on the Jay Leno show and referenced the Bill Clinton “no inhale” as to how you had cannabis found in your system. That’s hilarious. At the time were you expecting this to happen or did you not really consume cannabis at the time period in your life?
Leno actually made the reference to Clinton smoking but not inhaling and I inhaled but didn’t smoke. In April of 1997 I stopped smoking weed to meet Olympic criteria. Only thing is I was still having dinners and visiting friends where cannabis was being consumed. Never thought in a million years I’d test positive for THC that way. Second hand. As it turned out I failed three drug tests for THC prior to going to Nagano but was never made aware of it.
After my positive test in Nagano they publicly released those three positive THC tests. The question then becomes how did I test positive three times for a substance I could be disqualified for without being notified? The reason.. THC wasn’t on the list of banned substances for snowboarding at the time so I wasn’t notified. The IOC then had to return my medal and I became the first athlete in Olympic history to striped of a gold medal and have it returned and reinstated. Unreal..
What were the repercussions of the whole thing and what did the years after the Olympics look like for you?
That’s a big question.. It was a transformation from being a normal guy to being ultra famous mostly for elicit drugs. I was banned from the US starting after 911 2001 when they put me on the no fly list.
X games were new at the time and this killed my post Olympic career. I retired from the world cup. Stayed home for 10 yrs. I had PTSD bad during this time. Its one thing to become famous (somewhat) but I was known for stereotype and stigma. Not famous for the right reasons. Hard to earn a living that way. Sure snowboarding put me there but the fall out was tuff to take. I knew in time things would improve but didn’t know it would take over 20 yrs.
I think it took pioneers like you to really put cannabis in the spotlight of certain lifestyles to get people to think about its legal status and inevitably legalize it. Knowing where we are today, If you could go back would you do everything the same, would you? If anything, what would you have done different?
Wouldn’t change a thing.
What’s Ross up to today?
Today I have a family with three kids (Ryan 11, Rosie 8 and Rocco whos 5) a beautiful wife (Ali) of 10 yrs. We also have 2 cats 2 guinea pigs a budgy and a puppy Cane Corso named Bella. Aside from raising up the family I’m also building a brand (Ross’Gold) in the cannabis space.
We launched during prohibition in 2013 and even had an award winning dispensary by Leafly. See the doc TSN made on me called Higher Ground. Shows the Ross Gold store. We actually shut everything down voluntarily prior to legalization and are about to relaunch Ross Gold 2.0 in the new recreational era with 2018 cannabis legalization in Canada.
Tell us about the team behind Ross’ Gold, how long you guys have been in business and what youre bringing to the craft cannabis market in Canada?
Ross gold has a very strategic team behind it.
My biz partner Adam Gerges head up the guts of the team and Shawn Ripley is our very trusted industry specialist with regard to licensing and Health Canada. Shawn has been involved in helping start several consumer popular LP’s and micro cultivation facilities. We also partnered with a law firm so we got that end covered.
Is Ross’ Gold a medical focused company and will the recreational industry get to see some of your products eventually?
Ross Gold has a strong medically focused strategy to bring top quality medical grade flower and cannabis extracts infusions etc to patients across Canada but like I always say, There’s no such thing as recreational cannabis’. Its still good for you anyway you use it. Having said that I am a BIG fan of using cannabis in a recreational manner as a way to relax and for some people helping them get off and stay off opiates, alcohol and other addictive substances while still being able to enjoy friends and family alike.
I love getting baked, high, lifted, medicated… Call it what you want. I’m a prohibition kid about to turn 50. Its in my blood. I like it that way.
Your Instagram is awesome and I can really tell you truly love the plant and prioritize quality and the end user. Is quality priority for Ross’ Gold, and how do you think the business is positioned to change the cannabis industry in Canada?
Quality and the trust of the people means everything to us at Ross Gold.
Our customers will know by the Ross Gold stamp of approval that we have done our due diligence by only bringing top quality producers and processor’s of craft cannabis flower and products to the table.
Where can we find Ross’ Gold?
In 2021 Ross’Gold cannabis products will be available across Canada online and in stores coast to coast to coast.