Today I Discovered The Olympic Snowboarder Who Lost His Gold For Smoking Pot (And Then Started A Medical Marijuana Business)

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The 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, was the first to feature snowboarding as an Olympic sport, hoping to make the Winter Games a little more a palatable for a younger generation. The first ever snowboarding Gold was awarded to Ross Rebagliati, a Canadian who took out top place in the Giant Slalom. Three days later, a blood test suggested that Rebagliati had marijuana in his system - and he was forced to hand back his gold.

Rebagliati won the Giant Slalom event with a total time of 2:03.96, just two one-hundredths of a second faster than the silver medallist, Thomas Prugger. After Rebagliati's blood test revealed the presence of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in his system, an active constituent of cannabis. As a result, the IOC deemed him ineligible to participate and he was forced to give back his Gold medal just three days after winning it.

However, the story gets even better.

Rebagliati's team contested the ban, arguing that THC was not on the banned substances list and that it was likely the substance had entered his bloodstream through second-hand smoke. The appeal was successful and Rebagliati's Gold was handed back to him.

The World Anti-Doping Agency would later put THC on the banned substances list and place a threshold for a positive test at 15 nanograms per millilitre, before raising that threshold to 150 nanograms per millilitre in 2013.

For argument's sake, the sample Rebagliati supplied returned a reading of 17.8 nanograms per milliltre.

Even more revelatory was the fact that Rebagliati had tested positive for marijuana in all his drug tests leading up to the 1998 Winter Olympics without even knowing that was the case. In an interview upload to YouTube in 2010 and in his book 'Off The Chain', Rebagliati posits that it's 'possible' these failed drug tests were not disclosed to him because along the way somebody, or some entity, was trying to undermine snowboarding being included as an Olympic sport.

The controversy around Rebagliati's gold 'traumatized' him when he returned home from the Games in 1998 as the media placed a huge emphasis on the 'scandal' rather than his impressive snowboarding performance - the first person to win Olympic Gold in a snowboarding event.

But he eventually took it in his stride.

In 2013, in the town where he grew up and trained for most of his career, Rebagliati opened up his own medical marijuana dispensary known as Ross' Gold. A statement on the brand's website reads: "At Ross Gold, we champion medical and recreational cannabis use in a responsible healthy fashion and promote its benefits to the athlete in all of us.”

He continues to work in the medical marijuana space.


Today I Discovered is a daily dose of facts for Lifehacker readers - the weird, wonderful and sometimes worrying. This week we're pulling out some of the Winter Olympics most bizarre stories. Let us know if you discovered anything that blew your mind in the comments!

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