Ross Rebagliati was famous first for snowboarding. But shortly after winning the first snowboarding gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, he became famous for something else: Being the first Olympic pothead.
Rebagliati tested positive for pot shortly after winning his medal, and the test results led the IOC to take back his medal. The snowboarder became infamous -- and today he still uses that reputation as one of Canada's leading marijuana activists.
In a profile from the National Post, Rebagliati explains that he's still a frequent consumer of cannabis. At one point, he had had the equivalent of seven joints by 3:30 in the afternoon. But his marijuana use has nothing to do with being stoned -- he believes there are tangible benefits to marijuana, so much so that it qualifies as a performance-enhancing drug.
"For me, whether you are skiing, or snowboarding, or riding a road bike, or working out at the gym, (marijuana use) puts you in the moment," Rebagliati says. "You get in a zone where you can give it a 110 percent."
Rebagliati may sound like your average pothead, but among athletes he's far from alone. Many athletes in other sports, including the NFL and ultramarathoning, say marijuana brings tangible benefits that can include lessened fatigue and reduced physical pain -- even as an alternative to highly addictive painkillers.
The research thus far is limited, but the body of anecdotal endorsements from athletes do give the notion some credibility. Scientists are eager to study marijuana in greater depth to determine if these benefits are legitimate or merely perceived.
Rebagliati, by the way, ended up getting his gold medal back -- he challenged the ruling against him on the grounds that marijuana wasn't on the list of banned substances. He won, and it was later added to the list.
Whether marijuana qualifies as performance-enhancing may be another matter altogether. But Rebagliati sees benefits in his own daily life, and he's working to make that more accessible to the public.