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On This Date in Sports February 8, 1998: Snowboarding in the Olympics

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Looking to draw more interest and a younger audience, Snowboarding is brought to the Olympics for the first time at the games in Nagano. The Giant Slalom is the first Snowboarding medal event, with Ross Rebagliati of Canada beating out Thomas Prugger of Italy by .02 seconds and Ueli Kestenholz of Austria taking the Bronze. Later Rebagliati tested positive for using marijuana but was allowed to keep his medal after an appeal.

Ross Rebagliati, born July 14, 1971, in Vancouver, was a top-level snowboarder who was part of the first Olympic snowboard completion at the games in Nagano, Japan. Adding Snowboarding was part of trying to create more events and draw a younger audience to the winter games. On the first full day of competition at XVIII Olympic winter games, the Giant Slalom in Snowboarding was one of the first events. The timed event saw competitors make two runs down the hill, with the fastest combined time deciding who won. Ross Rebagliati, who was one of the two racers, who went down the hill in less than a minute, finished his two runs with a time of 2:03.96, which was .02 better than Thomas Prugger of Italy, while Ueli Kestenholz of Austria finished third in a time of 2:04.08.

Days after O, Canada was played, Ross Rebagliatiof Canada had his Gold Medal stripped after testing positive for THC, the chemical found in marijuana. Rebagliati appealed, claiming that he did not smoke any pot, but the test resulted from a contact high. At the time, marijuana was not on the list of substances banned by WADA (World Anti-Doping Association). While he fought the ruling to strip his medal, Ross Rebagliati became a cultural icon appearing on several talk shows as jokes about pot and Snowboarding became the norm. Eventually, the ruling was reversed, and he was allowed to keep his Gold Medal.

After retiring, Ross Rebagliati became an advocate for medical marijuana and formed his own company called Ross’ Gold. As the stigma of marijuana dissipates and its use continues to be legalized across Canada and the United States, companies, like the one owned by Rebagliati, stand to be very profitable. While becoming an advocate for the legalization of marijuana, Ross Rebagliati still claims that the only reason he failed his test was due to second-hand smoke.