VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Feb 5 (Reuters) - A controversy over marijuana
did not stop Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati from winning a gold medal
in the 1998 Olympics, but it may be enough to keep him from going to this
year's competition in Salt Lake City as a spectator.

Rebagliati, whose medals will be on display in Utah, has run afoul of U.S.
law that lets immigration officials bar entry for foreign citizens who have
admitted past drug use, even if they have never been arrested or convicted of
a crime.

Rebagliati, 30, and retired from Olympic competition, said he found out last
month he was on a list of people barred from entry, when a U.S. immigration
officer refused to let him to go to Las Vegas on a business trip and warned
he could be arrested if he attempted to enter the United States again.

"It is frustrating, that's for sure," Rebagliati told CBC Radio.

The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service said on Tuesday that people
without criminal convictions can submit drug test evidence "to prove they're
clean." But Rebagliati has told reporters that will not help him in time to
attend the games that open on Friday.

The Whistler, British Columbia, resident shot to fame in the 1998 Winter
Games in Nagano, Japan when he won the first-ever Olympic gold medal in
snowboarding competition, only to have the medal taken away when a post-race
drug test found traces of marijuana in his blood.

An International Olympic Committee arbitration panel quickly restored the
medal because there had never been an agreement between the IOC and the
International Ski Federation that marijuana should be treated as a banned
substance.

Rebagliati said at the time he had given up smoking pot before he decided to
compete in the Olympics. He argued the drug traces in his blood probably came
from second-hand smoke at a party he attended in Whistler before traveling to
Japan.

Canadian officials will have Rebagliati's medals on display at the Canadian
pavilion in Salt Lake City, and an audio recording of his voice is scheduled
to be played during the snowboarding competition.