Hydrolife: Looking back at your win, then your disqualifications, then having your medal returned, does it still amaze you how all of that went down?
Ross: (Laughing) Yes, it was incredible. First of all, it was a huge shock that it happened in the first place. It took me forever to recover from having my dreams slip between my fingers like that right at the end of my career. We prepared for it for four years and as snowboarders, we had never prepared for anything for four years before because all of our races were every year, so that was a departure from what we were used to.
o, yeah, it made it extra dramatic but at the same time very revealing about, you know, from the support I got from Canadians and from people around the world. Not only for the athletic performance but from my cannabis views and in spite of my cannabis use. So, I think a lot of people really have a hard time wrapping their head around the whole thing but in general, you know, the majority decided at that time 20 years ago that, ‘ah, we’ll just forget about the weed thing for now, it was a killer race,’ you know?
R: But, that was definitely a tricky situation at the time. Even afterwards, dealing with different pressures that I wasn’t used to, like being recognized outside of the snowboard world and just extra attention on me and pressure to succeed and to be successful and just things that you think about in your 20s that aren’t quite, you know, 100 per cent. As I get older now and I look back on it, I see how I was putting too much emphasis on some things that I thought were important at the time, but now when I look back on it in retrospect it’s all easy, right?
HL: Do you ever wonder how things might have turned out if the events in Nagano didn’t happen?
R: Yeah, from time to time I run a couple scenarios of that. I don’t really dwell too much on what shoulda, coulda, woulda scenarios. But yeah, I didn’t get the average amount of attention and my 15 minutes of fame has lasted for a lot longer. There are a lotof things to be thankful for and I think that the support that I got from Canada and in general, are basically the foundation of when I was sort of reborn then and had to kind of relearn my life. Having that support was the foundation of me being able to move forward.
HL: Do you feel smoking pot gave you a competitive advantage in your racing days?
R: I do, but I wasn’t using it during competition or anything like that. A lot of these events were international. For one, it was kind of hard to find at the time, you had to know a few people or whatever. In the off-season when I was training, that was the beginning of me learning about how I could use cannabis to improve my performance during the winter. While I was doing my dry land training during the summer, for me it was about my motivation at first, like when I first started competing on the World Cup Tour in ’91 was just pure adrenaline.
I couldn’t believe I was on the tour, you know? When I first got accepted in to it, I couldn’t believe we were going to live in Austria and I was going to do the tour that all my idols that I followed in all the snowboard mags in those days [did]. I was going to do the same thing, I was going to be competing against them. So for the first couple of years it was all good and fine, and then after a while it turned into, ‘Holy crap, I’m never home.’ It’s hard to keep the motivation up when you have to work out two and a half hours a day at the gym, five days a week.
So over time I found that, if I smoked some cannabis in the morning before I would go to the gym, I would feel so much more enthusiastic about it. Yeah, the motivation that you need to go and pound out the workout and go and do the 100-km bike ride—cannabis really got me out on a regular basis.
By the time the winter came I really had a good foundation of training and cardio and power under my belt. So, that’s how I first started using, and, of course, it was introduced to me through other people, older people, that were on my team who came from a different era, when snowboarding was more edgy and every year we moved more towards where we are today.
But these guys were smoking dope on the trip! I couldn’t believe it! That was astounding to me, that they would smoke dope on the chair and then rip a cord and it just never even occurred to me to ever do that. I tried it a couple times during training and it totally put me through a different level, of feeling my equipment working underneath me, and how my feet were positioned on the board, and whether or not my board was running fast.
Before it was more like, ‘Ahh! Get to the finish line, I’m just going to power through the whole thing,’ and my equipment just kind of followed me. But after I started using cannabis and riding, it gave me much more interest to where I wanted my gear to be, how I wanted my boots set up, all kinds of different things like how sharp my edges were or if they were too sharp or not sharp enough.
So, that kind of gave me more insight to set up my equipment in a different way, I was more comfortable. So, basically that’s how it started and that was early on in the 90s. I never did compete and use cannabis the same time.
HL: Do you feel that for you or many athletes today—like NFL players, ultra marathoners, even current medalists—pot is a performance enhancer?
R: Like I said, it has a lot to do with your training. If you smoke a joint you’re not going to necessarily sprint 100 meters faster. I don’t think it would slow you down from your normal speed. But I think what it does is when you’re doing your training, [it helps] the motivation that you get to do your training in the first place.
Here’s the thing, you end up being stronger, faster, and higher maybe. But, that’s basically where you get the performance enhancement from, is being healthy on that regular day-to-day basis, having the motivation to go to the gym and do your workouts. I would do a bike ride that was 150 km long and I would stop every two hours basically to smoke a joint and at first it was kinda nice, like ‘Oh, beautiful.’ But after 100 km or 120 km it’s like, “What am I even doing out here?
This is ridiculous!” And then, you smoke a joint and you’re like, this is kinda fun actually and you get back on your bike and keep going. So, you know the exercise that you get from your workout, due to the motivation that you’re getting from using cannabis, at the end of the day is performance enhancing.
HL: How do you feel the public perception around using pot has changed, from the time you won your medal to today?
R: It’s changed a lot. I think it’s going to change a little bit more, but I think that everybody is starting to realize that the science is backing up the industry, it’s backing up the cannabis plant. I felt like it was my responsibility after Japan to not turn my back on it, but to make people realize and to help them realize that it wasn’t a mistake that I was using cannabis before the Olympics.
It was a mistake that I tested positive for it because I didn’t know I was failing my drug test before I went there, and as it turned out I had tested positive three times for cannabis before I went and I didn’t know. They didn’t tell me about it, so I could have made sure I wasn’t going to test positive for it. It’s kind of weird, they wouldn’t tell you but then they took your medal away after you get there.
Anyways, perception has changed a lot. At the time people were really, I don’t want to say brainwashed, but the propaganda that was put out there in the ’80s especially about the dangers of cannabis and that it was a gateway drug. That was the beginning of a new idea about it.
HL: You haven’t exactly faded from the limelight. You have multi-million dollar real estate developments, you participate in several charities, you’re working through licensing with a medical marijuana company. How do you stay so focused on so many things?
R: I am pretty busy, compared to some people. I think that I’m just accustomed to it. Focused on my racing and all that it entails and throughout the ’90s I was flipping real estate in Whistler and that basically paid my way to the World Cup Tour and to the Olympics. I had some European sponsors but basically, I was on a shoestring budget.
I was paying a mortgage since I was 19, I’m used to having these pressures on me and at first, they’re like these huge pressures, then the feeling just becomes normal, the new normal. Having kids helped me focus a lot. I know that I’ve worked in the construction industry for roughly 10 years in Whistler, building houses there. That gave me a different perspective on life and what a dollar is worth and that sort of thing.
And so I always kind of felt I had more to do and I was waiting and waiting for cannabis to sort of catch up to where I was or where British Columbia was so that I could launch Ross’ Gold and have it be successful and looked up to instead of, ‘Oh, now look what he’s doing!’, you know? I feel like when we finally came out four or five years ago with the company, that it was still ahead of the curve, it was still an edgy idea.
But now after five years of growing the company our store is about to open. Not only that but the federal government is finally being proactive about legalization so now it’s the perfect storm. But it took me a lot of years to get here, for everyone to catch up and in the meantime, I sort of had to make do. You know, I did walk on to job sites in Whistler looking for work. I did go through a period where I was basically broke and had to kind of build up from zero. I went through some unfortunate relationships that were not only emotional but financially drained me. And so, I think it’s just life.
Going through life and realizing that the bad feelings do go away and that the sun does shine. There’s been some tough years but it’s made me realize that you just keep doing what you want to do and what you love. And just never give up about it and you can accomplish it. I did it once already!
HL: You started [cannabis company] Ross’ Gold in 2013. What opportunities do you see in Canada for treating people with medical marijuana?
R: The number one reason why I want to do this is so that we can help as many people as possible. I know through my own experiences that it helps me get out of a lot of, you know, not depressions, but depressants, disappointments. And how I had different expectations of what it would mean to go to the Olympics, I had different goals.
Life is never how you think it’s going to be and I think that from my experience using it and being able to be positive throughout everything, I think that is something that people struggle with on a regular basis. Like normal day to day life, like give me a break already, you know?! And I think that cannabis is a healthy alternative to alcohol.
For a lot of those same reasons, you can easily categorize things in your head like what your priorities are. They come flying at you at 100 miles an hour and you know what you need to do. Where as with alcohol you’re like, ‘Well, I’m drunk now, I can’t do anything now.’ And then you wake up in the morning, you feel like crap, you don’t sleep and you don’t eat right and that just leads to more and more unhealthy things.
HL: Even on a pharmaceutical level, you know?Everyone is always so quick to go to the doctor and get pharmaceuticals.
R: Absolutely, and being able to tell people like, ‘Look, it’s not only healthy to use cannabis, but its family oriented.’ You can have a family and use cannabis. The idea might be shocking to people that you would use cannabis and raise a family but, I’m telling you, you totally can do it and it helps tremendously in a million ways.
But you know, if you’re having a couple of beers on the patio, okay, fine, whatever. But you know, you can’t treat yourself with beer when you’re stressed out because your kids are driving you nuts. But you can go and have a little quick puff somewhere and you know, deal with the situation and be totally capable and be yourself.
Also, the specific aliments that are out there in regards to medical cannabis like cancer treatments, arthritis, and epilepsy. There is new research on brain trauma, I think is especially promising with regenerating certain damage with brain cells from a concussion and the plasma that protects itself around your brain from a future concussion. I think it’s just amazing stuff! For all this science to be done and to prove these things is beyond, I think, anyone’s expectations.
HL: How many joints do you smoke a day?
R: Uh, I would say… (laughing). Let me count. I probably have one in the morning before I go to work and I probably have, like, three to four, maybe up to five joints at work throughout the day and at the end of the day, it depends if my neighbour comes over. But, it could be anywhere from three to 20 joints a day depending on what I have to do in the day.
HL: So, it’s more recreational for you. It’s not medicinal.
R: I’d say there is no such thing as recreational pot smoking. It helps you whether you want it to or not and for me it gets me through my day in a really positive way.
HL: You sell a $24,000 gold plated water pipe. Obviously, you are kind of confident that pot isn’t just for your stereotypical stoner anymore.
R: You’re right. Yeah, it’s gotta fit into the Maserati somewhere.
HL: So you’re pretty confident that there’s no such thing as a stereotypical stoner.
R: There is a stereotype of a stoner but weed smoking comes from all walks of society, from the billionaires right on down to the guy begging for money on the side of the street.
HL: What other projects besides Ross’ Gold do you have going on?
R: We have a bunch of stuff going on with the store and the products that we are licensing out. So we are in in touch with the 420 Games to be involved. I’m not allowed down to the US, I haven’t been since Nagano, basically. So we are waiting for them to come here, like Kelowna or Vancouver. That’s on the backburner, we’ve got TV shows. Trying to figure out how to do a show, there might be a movie that is being produced right now by some producers that you would be familiar with.
I don’t know if I can say very much about it right now. We have a bunch of cool stuff coming out. I’m just trying to get ready for ski season right now, cross country skiing and downhill skiing. I went back to downhill skiing. I used to ski race, right? I kind of got addicted to it all over again. Taking it one step at a time. We got the store, it’s the number one thing, it’s about to open and there has been some delays with construction and stuff so it’s driving everyone nuts.
HL: That’s ok. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Everything in moderation and time, right?
R: I tell the guys, don’t worry, it’s only going to open one time and then it’s always going to be open after that. We’re planning for 99 more stores across Canada so a lot on the go!