“Let them smoke,” says Ross Rebagliati of the 2022 Canadian Olympians, currently competing in Beijing. Rebagliati, as most stoners know, is Canada’s gold-medal winning giant slalomist from 1998 who, like a G, won gold, tested positive for THC, had his medal taken away by the IOC, and then, in a first-ever reversal, was given back his first place prize.
Today, Rebagliati—who runs his own cannabis company Ross’s Gold and is building a grow north of Penticton, BC, skiing all the time and training for the Vancouver Marathon—believes Olympic athletes should be allowed to consume cannabis. It’s ridiculous, he says, that athletes are still getting busted for weed.
“They normally have beer gardens at the Olympics for the athletes and, when I raced, the French skiers would all smoke cigarettes with their coach after they finished their runs,” says Rebagliati, who smokes every few hours, joints as heavy as a gram and a half. “I think they’re looking to make a change, for real, but the IOC is pretty entrenched in their ways.”
Their ways, however, may indeed change. This winter, as Canadians watch their countrymen like Max Parrot take gold, Ross thinks change is afoot. Not because it’s the right thing to do, but because busting athletes for weed affects the Olympics’ bottom line.
This summer, Sha’Carri Richardson was denied a chance to compete in the Olympics after testing positive for THC. That she consumed the product after discovering, from a reporter, that her biological mother had died, only further captured the public’s outrage. Richardson not competing in the Olympic Games, says Rebagliati, costs the Olympics money. She’s a star. And the Games can’t be expected to do the humane thing: let grown-ups consume the legal products they choose. However, if an athlete like Sha’Carri gets banned—or Michael Phelps, who also tested positive—it will hurt advertising revenue and attendance, whenever we get back to watching sports without COVID protocols. That, says Rebagliati, causes action. Cash still rules everything around sports, Ross says.
“The bottom line is what counts,” says Rebagliati, mentioning the gigantic stigma that still makes places like Europe and the United States, and even back home in Canada, put defences up against cannabis. The stigma, more than the practical aspects of cannabis—how it assists with mental health, sleep, anxiety and depression—is what keeps cannabis on the list of banned substances for Canadian Olympians. Says Ross Rebagliati, the face of Canada’s cannabis athletes and a gold medal winner in the Olympic Games: “Athletes are already using cannabis—let them smoke weed!”