'Canadian Snowboarder, Tested Positive for Marijuana, Gets His Gold Medal Restored," went the headline.
Well, of course. We're in a posture of headlong excusing of wrongdoing anyway nowadays. It's the decade of Anything Goes.
It's a good thing he hadn't tested positive for smoking, say, a Marlboro or the thought police would really have ripped his epaulets off and stripped him of his medal for polluting the slopes with secondhand smoke.
Cannabis apparently does not incite the same kind of moral outrage as tobacco, although, interestingly enough, the snowboarder in question, Ross Rebagliati, ascribes his trouble to secondhand smoke. His pals were smoking pot around him, he says.
It's not that he hasn't inhaled. But he hasn't smoked any pot since April of '97, he told the arbitration panel. You wonder if he quit cold turkey. I guess so.
As usual, the moral law--or the law, period--played no part in the tableau. The finding comes down, as usual, to some cluster of ambiguous words or lack of them. We are ruled in this society not by common sense but by some vague prepositional phrases, verbs with two or more meanings to them or, as in this case, by a failure to address the problem with any words at all. This from a body that once took away a medal from a swimmer because he tested positive for ephedrine taken for his asthma condition.
But that was then. This is now. The IOC had to reinstate Rebagliati because it had no specific injunction against marijuana. Presumably it has none against heroin, either. Or PCP.
Of course, the Nagano police do. So do the police in Rebagliati's hometown in Canada.
But the Olympic committee failed to address the problem of its being against the law. So, it hastened to restore the stripped medal. Stricken conscience? Nah. Fear of the bullies of our civilization, the lawyers. Remember the Olympics have been sued expensively by sprinters, hurdlers and shotputters in recent years for millions of dollars over rulings it thought it could make.
In this case, their arbitrators found that the rule books were not explicit about sanctions for marijuana use. The Canadian Olympic Committee spokeswoman said marijuana might be banned if it were found to be "performance- enhancing," which she said it could be if it were used in more dangerous sports [like ski jumping] to subdue feelings of fear.
Oh? Figure that one out if you can. And bring the answer in for Monday.
The case against Rebagliati is, so to speak, smoky anyway. He tested positive for marijuana all right, minute residues that he said were due to secondhand absorption in rooms where his friends smoked joints. So would he give up those friends? "Never!" Rebagliati said. Presumably, he'll just open the windows.
It was also adduced that the marijuana produced in his hometown in British Columbia has a potency value several times that of ordinary marijuana. You could see where the IOC would be a 10-1 underdog in any subsequent legal proceedings in this case. They may get sued anyway for holding up his medal for 32 hours and holding him up to public obloquy over it.
Well, the anti-tobacconists are right. That secondhand smoke will get you every time.
But the message sent out by this Olympic ruling must bring joy to the hearts of parents everywhere. How do you tell your kid pot smoking is bad for you when a guy who does it wins the Olympic gold medal? And probably gets a shoe contract now, plus appearances on talk shows and exhibitions on ski slopes worldwide and the other perks that come from twisting authority's nose.
I wonder if you can get steroid benefits secondhand? If so, we might be able to get Ben Johnson's 1988 medal back.