Weed, Weather, & Winning: The Story of Gary Houseman's Illicit World Cup DH Victory

Sep 11, 2019
by Mike Levy  




Depending on how you word it, two names will come up if you Google who won the fifth round of the World Cup downhill series back in 2003: Ivan Oulego Moreno from Spain, and Gary Houseman, at the time a twenty-three-year-old who, with bleached highlights and a Santa Cruz V10 under him, looked every part the Californian mountain bike racer. The reason for the discrepancy? Officially speaking, Houseman was stripped of his victory and fined 2,000 Swiss francs after testing positive for THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana that makes you feel 'high.' That decision saw Oulego Moreno's second-place result became a first, and Houseman's name moved to the bottom of the page with a DSQ beside it.

The list of American men who've won a World Cup downhill is pretty short, and it looks even shorter when you compare it to all the champagne Europeans have sprayed over the last few decades worth of weekends.

But unofficially, Houseman added his name to that elite club by posting the fastest time on that rainy day in Canada, regardless of the joint he smoked a week earlier while deciding to retire from the sport.





I know it seems like a hell of a long time ago, but World Cup downhill racing in 2003 wasn't vastly different what we're watching today. Tracks were getting both shorter and far more technical than the marathon-like stages of earlier years, and while the bikes were unrefined by today's standards, they were also showing signs of what they'd eventually become. Mountain biking racing was busy transitioning from kooky to cool, and much like today, the Europeans and a handful of Australians and South Africans were pretty damn good at it.

America? Relatively speaking, not so much.

''You know, you can race your whole career, but to have that, that mark right there, it's a little bit different,'' Houseman told me during a phone call not about the figurative asterisk beside his name in the record books, but about winning. ''Winning can change everything,'' he says with more than just a hint of wistfulness in his voice.

The American men were fast, sure, but they weren't doing much winning back then. The rest of the world was on another level, Gwin was still in high school, and the last time a US man won on Sunday was back in 1999 when Palmer was the fastest in Big Bear.

With Nicolas Vouilloz retiring the previous year, these were less predictable times, too. There were no repeat male winners during the six-round 2003 season, and round four, in Telluride, Colorado, was cancelled due to lack of sponsorship. At the June 1st opener, Cedric Gracia and his Cannondale DH bike had the fastest time down the brand-new and bone-dry Fort William track that was the smoothest it would ever be yet somehow still a minefield of rocks and holes. The dust and loose conditions continued at another legendary track, this one no longer used - Alpe d'Huez - where big Rennie slid his yellow Iron Horse SGS onto the top step.

Then it was Peaty and his Orange in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec. For Houseman, who was racing on the ITS-Santa Cruz team, along with his older brother, Rich, and friends Johnny Waddell from Australia, and fellow American Henry O'Donnell, this was his first World Cup of a mostly-domestic season of racing.




The stats say that Gary finished a nondescript 56th place in Quebec. The same stats also have a 'DNF' beside Waddell's name, but those three letters don't do nearly enough to describe what happened to the Australian over the massive jump into the finish line area. The shape of the ten-foot-tall lip and the high speeds were giving racers trouble all weekend long, and he wasn't the only one who got bit. Many others crashed. Waddell didn't walk away from his.

Waddell was taken off the course on a stretcher and unconscious, and he would end up spending twenty-six days in a coma and years recovering from severe brain trauma. Life-changing would be an apt way to put it. He would eventually ride again, but there was a period in the days following his crash where survival, not recovery, was on everyone's minds. Especially Gary's.

''He was living with me,'' a clearly emotional Houseman said about that time, ''so I came home and I told my dad I wasn't going to race again, and perhaps we could smoke a joint.''

''And then the next weekend I went up there and won.''





Every cycling community has its local fast guys, but 'fast' can be taken a few different ways. Quickest descender in your group of riding buddies? Congrats on that. Winning some local races now and then? You must be doing something right. But fast enough to actually qualify for a World Cup race? There's no hyperbole needed: Only the best, strongest, bravest racers in your country are able to do that, and a lot of time it takes everything they have to simply make the big show.

Qualifying would play an even more important role than usual during that weekend in Canada.

Back then, there were no points awarded for qualifying performances, and it wasn't uncommon to see some of the fastest racers taking a more calculated approach. Forecast saying rain in the afternoon? Put in a conservative effort and you'll be racing earlier in the day, hopefully before the sky opens and the track became considerably slower and more dangerous. But for Gary and his teammates, that wasn't the case: ''The American guys trying to qualify back then, it was hard, you know.'' For them, along with many others, qualifying could be a race in itself, and there was no such thing as taking a safe, relaxed run.




Gary's qualifying time put him in the thirty-third starting slot and rolling out of the gate for his race run a few minutes before his brother later that afternoon. As it turned out, his first few cranks out of the start hut happened at nearly the same time that the rain started. This wasn't just a summer afternoon drizzle, either, with thick clouds draping themselves down onto the mountain that limited visibility to only a few feet in some sections, and water falling in sheets rather than individual drops.

Houseman, who still had a mostly dry track in front of him during his effort but was also aware of what was happening, knew that it was time to let it all hang out. And that's exactly what the twenty-three-year-old did, with a close call near the top of the course not slowing him down one bit: ''To win a national, you have to scare yourself three times. To win a World Cup, you have to scare yourself seven to ten times.''

Houseman scared himself a lot and the run was good. Really good

With it being a relatively short track and the weather rolling in, He was well aware that this was no time to use caution. ''I knew it was a short course, and there was a woods section towards the bottom that, when I hit it, I felt it was slippery, you know, so I knew just to hold on,'' he said of his run that day. ''I knew to stay on it, and at the bottom that there was a couple of other sections like that, so I just kept going for it. That's what happened.''

The clock said 2:06.26.

The weather, as bad as it was, somehow took a turn for the worse while Gary was in the hot seat, leaving those still at the top of the mountain facing slick conditions that required a more measured, careful approach to stay upright.

''Gary's leading right now. C'mon rain, let my dog win,'' Eric Carter, a friend of Gary's and focus of Ryan Cleek's 2005 documentary 'Downhill Speed,' says while watching racer after racer come up short. ''If it keeps raining like this, I really doubt they're gonna be able to beat him.'' The only one to come close was Frenchman Mickael Pascal who qualified in second and, in a remarkable and rarely remembered showing maybe only equalled by Sam Hill at the 2007 Champéry World Cup, managed to come within two-seconds of Houseman.

Gracia was eight-seconds back in the rain, a gap that put him in forty-fifth place and underlined how difficult the track was becoming, while Gary's fellow American's Kirt Voreis and Colin Bailey scored third and fourth with their much drier, faster race runs. Henry O'Donnell, also on the ITS-Santa Cruz program, took ninth, and Spanish racer Moreno, nicknamed 'Crazyhorse' for obvious reasons, was just a third of a second behind Houseman's winning time. Other names that might sound familiar: Claudio Caluori (14th), Jordie Lunn (17th), and Curtis Keene (23rd).

Gary got lucky with the weather, some will no doubt say, and there's little argument against that except, you know, that you have to be unfathomably dedicated and skilled to make it to even make it to a World Cup start line. You'll never get to that level using luck alone, but that same luck can sure as hell play a role in what happens when you get there.




The summer storm settled in as Houseman, who shaved three seconds off his qualifying effort, did the same in the hot seat. Neither the American or the weather would budge for the rest of the race, but Houseman was already thinking about another kind of storm that was about to roll in.





Video footage from that rainy day on Grouse Mountain shows Houseman up against the finish line corral fence, his expression equal parts disbelief and delight while chatting to Carter and other friends. He walks back to the hot seat, his bleached hair making him look a bit like a mountain biking Sid Vicious, and sits out in the downpour while nearly everyone else hides under umbrellas and pop-up tents. If you watch that scene today, sixteen years later and knowing what's going to happen, you can understand why he looked completely indifferent to the weather.

Winning means drug testing, of course, and Gary knew that as well.

''I know it, and I know I'm busted,'' he told me, with his win, an upset no matter how you frame it, immediately in doubt in his own mind while he was still in the hot seat. Tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly known as THC, is the chemical that gives marijuana its well-known abilities, and it tends to stick around in one's system for a while. It'll show up in your piss days after you take it in, and sometimes more than a month later if you're a heavy user. With just two weeks between the previous World Cup in Mont-Sainte-Anne, the race that Gary came home from pondering retirement after watching his friend nearly die, and the race that he smoked marijuana immediately after, he knew he was in trouble.

It took six months for USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) to make the announcement that Houseman tested positive for THC, a prohibited substance across the board but, when it comes to cycling, one that was strangely policed only in downhill racing. The punishment: a one-year suspension from competition that went into effect retroactively on the date of his infraction, and a fine of 2,000 Swiss francs that was more salt for the wound than anything else.




Gary could have appealed, he explained, but he also knew that he broke the rules, that he had smoked a banned substance, and that he won the Grouse mountain World Cup with THC in his body. You probably don't get any performance advantages from smoking weed, sure, but banned is banned, no two ways about it. Even so, Houseman described winning during our phone call in the way that only the most competitive type of people can understand - ''That's what we all race for. How many people do you know that are actual winners?'' he said at one point during the conversation - so maybe he should have fought the ruling?

''No, I was wrong,'' he interjected before I had even finished asking him if he wishes he had appealed USADA's decision. ''I wasn't smoking a bowl on the lift on the way up, but there was weed in my system.'' But what if... ''It was in my system, you know,'' he says in a bone dry, it is what it is kind of tone before I can get anything else out, much like how someone would look out the window and note the rain.





The 2003 season would be Gary's last as a full-time professional racer. A separated shoulder caused by crashing into Greg Minnaar at a four-cross race ended his momentum, but not before he qualified to represent America at the World Championships in Lugano, Switzerland. His brother, Rich, along with Shaums March, would have that honor, though, placing thirty-eighth and thirteenth respectively. Minnaar, Pascal, and Barel took the fastest three spots in a time before podium inclusivity extended to the top five.

When I asked Houseman why he didn't come back to racing in 2004 or 2005 after his suspension was up, his reply was straightforward and without the sour accent to it that you might get from just reading his words. ''I didn't have any backing and, honestly, like I said, it seemed like a 'f*ck you,'' he replied without even a hint of anger. ''It was like the sport let me down, and I was ready to move on.''

These days, Gary is thirty-eight-years-old and has a pragmatic attitude about all that happened. He lives in Temecula, California, works as a plumber, and has two kids. He still rides often, he's still going fast as hell, and he still smokes, too.

Gary's frustration may have faded but he makes no effort to hide emotions that sixteen-years have done little to dull. ''I would never take anything to beat anybody,'' he tells me through what sounds like tears. ''I'm just, I'm not that bad of a person for it,'' his voice cracks, ''and I've still got a job and a career. You know what I mean?'' I do know, I say before asking him if he knows that he won on that rainy day in Canada.

''Sure, I had the fastest time of the day. I think I can still ride a bike, you know? I still would love to race, but I can't. I won't pay that fine.'' Here's to Gary never, ever handing over that 2,000 Swiss francs.

Regions in Article
North Vancouver


189 Comments

  • 275 8
 THC, performance enhancing? Let me mull that over for a few hours while I stare vacantly out of the window.
  • 63 37
 You may be joking, but if not it’s worth noting this is a widely accepted fallacy. The correct dose can put you very much ‘in the zone’.
  • 14 2
 I did read an article (high times) on the greens effect on heart rate an blood pressure can be the same as what athletes train to achieve ....
  • 11 3
 @nojzilla: there are a bunch of ultra runners already microdosing it in the states. I think people totally forget/brush over the fact it’s ‘psychoactive’ when someone says it can be a psychological advantage at the right dose.
  • 28 1
 @tobiusmaximum: Oh totally, couple of tokes at the start of a days riding is perfect
  • 36 3
 @tobiusmaximum: absolutely right. If dosed carefully and the right strain, smoking before riding can put you in a state of serious flow and connection with the trail. Incredible feeling.
  • 13 1
 Hum... I don`t know, but each time I smoked a spliff before descending a bike park track, I was a bit stressed and feeling stupid, but once I was launched, I rode faster/smoother/cleaner than usually because my mind was kind of hyper relax and I felt like more focused on the present moment. But I guess it depends on the persons AND on the quality of the substance of course.
Beside this: climbing and pedaling with that is a pure bullshit. But for descending: I confirm that it can help Smile
  • 33 2
 The only way to enjoy gravity is to get high
  • 80 6
 Weed and MTB are like peanut butter and jelly.
  • 27 0
 Grassroots racing I thought that's what it was all about
  • 40 4
 @nojzilla: n00b. I stuff my bong into my bottle cage and take rips as I manual down the trail blowing smoke in the faces of all the squids I pass...
  • 5 11
flag nojzilla (Sep 11, 2019 at 5:30) (Below Threshold)
 @m1dg3t: k.........
  • 12 0
 @Franzzz: Were you really faster/smoother/cleaner (like are there real footage of that and timed runs?) or do you felt faster/smoother/cleaner. Because these are totally different things as brain is really easy to fool (just take one random bike product review for example) and even harder to spot when high.
  • 2 2
 @opignonlibre: I know I was faster/smoother/cleaner because the friend I usually ride with is normally riding in front of me because he`s faster, and these times he was behind me and asked me wtf happened? Smile
  • 3 2
 @nojzilla: but see it also impairs your judgement and can make you dizzy so maybe it’s not the best thing to do before a downhill race
  • 3 0
 Confirmed! Weed is performance-enhancing

youtu.be/z_6p0Jcnsu4
  • 3 1
 @JikkityJek: it’s all dose dependant. It only impairs your judgement if you take too much.
  • 11 3
 @tobiusmaximum: Ahh spoken like someone who doesnt smoke nor truly knows what theyre talking about.

Zero effect on him that day, as he said, it's not like he smoked a bowl on the way up in the lift. It was from a week ago, there's no strain or dose in existence that would "put you in the zone" for over a week.

Talk to the dudes in the pits doing lines of coke before a race and get back at us with your twisted logic.
  • 6 0
 Night riding while high is nice.
  • 1 0
 @Franzzz: We believe you.
  • 9 22
flag scary1 (Sep 11, 2019 at 9:42) (Below Threshold)
 ^^^^^ these guys are why i ride alone 95% of the time.
Cant just ride your f***ing bike can ya?
Gotta be "altered" from life.
  • 13 7
 @scary1: when your nauseous most the time yeah its nice to alter that so I can actually ride. Go hit some hard tech while nauseous and see how many times your pulling your chin bar outta the way to puke... People like you should ride alone, you'd be with everyone who care about your opinions.
  • 2 4
 Tumbling down Making movement, ruff enuff Cos when the music met I-tops I felt the sting, knew the shock, yeah, had to do and ride the rock Outta dis rock shall come a greener riddim Even more dread than what the breeze of glory bred Vibrating violence is our own move Rocking with green rhythm The drought and dry root out
  • 12 16
flag scary1 (Sep 11, 2019 at 10:24) (Below Threshold)
 @PinkStatus: sorry for your medical condition. Does it make you a Dick also, or is that just a baseline that the weed doesn't help with?
  • 11 13
 @tobiusmaximum: As a medical professional and athlete, we both know you are completely off base. There is no way a person is faster while intoxicated. Being "in the zone" may feel good, but smoking dope does not make you perform better, though you may think you are better. Like the drunk guy who says he "drives fine, better even", when he is drink. Yeah, right.
  • 6 0
 @tobiusmaximum: No, just no. You feel like you are in the zone and you are and it feels great and you kill it. But it doesn't make you faster. Sober runs always have the potential to be faster. The widely accepted fallacy is what you are stating. That being said, I prefer to ride 'in the zone.'
  • 6 10
flag DhDWills (Sep 11, 2019 at 10:38) (Below Threshold)
 @nojzilla: That source doesn't sound bias at all....It's like a Republican telling you Trump is good guy.
  • 3 1
 @tobiusmaximum: Ya..running...something you can zone out and do without much thought.
  • 2 0
 @NYShred: He should've smoked on the way up the lift tho. Would've been better.
  • 6 1
 @nurseben: dude even Cam Zink admitted that he took a page out of Evil Knievel's book and said 3 ish drinks before go-time helps a lot with calming the nerves and loosening up your mind. Tanner Hall, one of the world's best free-skiers, he's notorious for lighting up and sending huge cliffs and gaps. I'm trying to remember the name of the guy but there was an Olympic Gold medalist who was in some hot water for competing drunk in downhill ski, and winning. Point is, in certain aspects either liquid courage or the devil's lettuce can actually be an advantage.
  • 2 0
 Sure, getting in touch with your insecurities while taking inventory of life's problems at the start line of a dangerous event where your every move is scrutinized by hecklers? Lemme hit that again? Hell naw. Life is scary enough.
  • 4 1
 @nurseben: To be fair you obviously don't smoke & you're a nurse....
  • 1 4
 @NYShred: I didn’t read the article, I was busy at work. I was merely stating why it’s a banned substance. FYI.. smoked for longer than I care to admit. So you’re way off with that one.
  • 1 1
 @nurseben: tell me about the Silicon Valley personnel who are microdosing psylocibin. They’re just getting off the nut at work for the craic?
  • 1 0
 @DhDWills: you’ll find out eventually. And you’ll be like ‘oh, that dude was right’.
  • 1 0
 It was (is? ) a thing in trial too.
  • 3 0
 @nurseben: @angrynipples: I think a lot of things we consume could be considered performance enhancing (sugar, caffeine ect). But I guess it all comes down to what's banned and what's not. I'm a sport where confidence is key I would consider dope or alcohol to be performance enhancing if the effect on the user is increased confidence. Drugs effect different people in different ways. It defo doesn't increase my confidence 90% of the time although I wish it did.
  • 4 0
 @nurseben so as a mental health professional I would suggest you need to broaden what you define as performance enhancing. Pot is often a drug of disconnection and specifically, for some, disconnection from their nervous system. Pot can help slow the heart rate and reduce cortisol release in times of stress for some. Keeping that heartrate lower and reducing the release of stress hormones will improve fine motor coordination, creativity, will improve oxygen intake and deepen the breath and lots more...so I think for some people there could be a fair argument for it improving performance. However, that wasn't the case here anyways. He had, according to his account, THC in his system from a week before so the more active or acute effects of the substance wouldn't have been a thing. *I'm not suggesting people use pot for this- the research over time also shows that anxiety increases in the long run which is likely due to the avoidance effect and the lack of practice your nervous system gets learning to do these things on its own...which it can.
  • 2 0
 @angrynipples: you're most certainly thinking of notorious bad boy Bode Miller, quite the character in his time, unbelievable moves and skiing skills
  • 3 1
 Just did a round of the ESC this past weekend. I have medical marijuana for a weird kind of arthritis that I have. Causes my knee to literally swell up with fluids. I was really nervous dropping into stage one. Made several mistakes on the first three stages. After stage three climbing back up the transfer I felt that little pop pop in my tendon. I stopped and took a small hit from my vape pen. Medical grade Durban poison sativa. Next three stages I rode completely clean and flowy. So much so that one of the course Marshalls complimented my riding after the race. So yeah it’s dose dependent and strain dependent.
  • 1 1
 @metaam @tobiusmaximum: it been proven! our natural synapse receptors produce naturally occuring chemicals like; dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins. This is why people enjoy the activities they endeavour in, totally unaware that the brain creates this sort of "high" which is commonly referred as a "state of flow" THC only bipasses any external activity and it gets straight to chemical release, that's why you can vacantly stare out of the window and feel like you are in the midst of experiencing something, when its purely visual aesthetic. Humans naturally get "high" anytime they consciously produce a formative attitude on any given subject that gives them intense interest I.E. mtb, skateboarding, painting. the list goes on
  • 3 0
 @scary1: From an outside perspective, you actually come off as the Dick in the relationship.
  • 1 0
 Shaun White though... And he kept his title.
  • 1 0
 @tobiusmaximum:

Yup.... A little sticky on the up lift. Prefect.
  • 120 2
 We need an opposite World Cup series, with mandatory smoking weed before finals. I'd watch that.
  • 20 0
 Guy at the starting hutt : Hold my bowl.
  • 40 0
 Clay Porter can document it in a film called '4 minute 20 gaps'.
  • 2 0
 Kind of like a "beer mile."
  • 7 3
 @JoeRSB Why not, but Danny Hart already escapes when it`s about drinking alcohol, I wouldn`t recommend him, and Amaury Pierron is already too high in his head. Aaron Gwin`s drug is God, and this is another thing...
  • 2 0
 Been saying this for years. Massive liability though hahaha
  • 3 0
 @dingus: sir that was not very dingus of you but actually quite genius
  • 2 0
 THC Weed Cup Downhill Salute
  • 9 0
 We could call it the Bryceland cup, after the inevitable winner.
  • 2 0
 @Fix-the-Spade: I'm seeing as more along the lines of "Weed & Style", Racing against the clock but with a THC level time bonus deduction. tup
  • 60 5
 Pot, hardly performance enhancing, i would have stopped for pizza half way down the hill.
  • 30 2
 ... or gone faster because of the pizza at the finish line?
  • 5 0
 @brodoyouevenbike: you've been to Maribor, I take it?
  • 36 9
 He showed a lot more integrity than current riders. “I messed up” is a lot cooler than making up a lie about taking someone’s water bottle on the mountain.
  • 4 0
 Or the suspiciously high number of asthmatics that road cycling seem to have.

(Of course this makes it harder for those seriously affected)
  • 22 0
 Feel for the guy, i got tested while i had been smoking too after finishing 6th at the british champs when i was 18, got a 6 month ban even though british cycling actually defended me argued i slowed myself down and i should learn from it and followed up by sending me to world cups. No fine for me though thankfully! Everyone does stupid stuff sometimes and should of just got a slap on the wrist.
  • 13 1
 " Everyone does stupid stuff sometimes and should of just got a slap on the wrist. "

Yeah but at the same time rules are rules and every one can invent an excuse for any kind of drug use. Also we are talking about momentary ban and a fine, not jail time or a criminal record. It is pretty much a slap on the wrist already.
  • 27 5
 Smoking weed is far less stupid than drinking alcohol. Hard to comprehend to the unenlightened, yet true. Drink too much alcohol, you die. Smoke too much weed, fall asleep and wake up feeling normal. Hmmmm...
  • 2 3
 @Golden-G: the main issue with doping is that you can use a substance with different levels of amount, differents effects than what is expected or combined with other molecules. It can very well be that THC is banned because studies showed that you could ingest a very small fraction of what gets in your body by smoking weed and get enhancement effects, like feeling a wee bit more relaxed before a sporting event.

Add to that the list of banned substance is common to all sports sanctioned sports. THC may not help in cycling but could while playing darts, snooker, golf or whatever.
  • 3 0
 @opignonlibre: i only got in trouble as it was an illegal drug, that was more the problem than it being prohibited
  • 6 0
 @opignonlibre: didn't help my golf handicap at all, but did make driving the buggies more fun.
  • 3 7
flag JikkityJek (Sep 11, 2019 at 7:46) (Below Threshold)
 @Golden-G: smoke too much weed, throw up for an hour an a half.
  • 9 1
 @JikkityJek: sounds like you need to work on your toleranceWink
  • 9 0
 @JikkityJek: Weed first then beer. You don't wanna be too deep into the beers and then green out.
  • 1 0
 @mykel: But that's when ppl usually think more/different drugs are a good idea.
  • 1 0
 @JikkityJek: nah... that doesn’t happen. I don’t like PCP in my weed.
  • 1 0
 @mykel: made that mistake a lot as a teenager
  • 4 0
 @opignonlibre: isn't everything a drug? think about it. just watching tv is a drug, doing laundry is a drug, mtb is a drug. anything that changes the chemical makeup of our synapses is ultimately a drug whether we like what were doing or not. every instance in our lives gives us the opportunity to experience any outcome in any given way, just as if you were tripping on some generic shrooms. Hell PB is a drug! just imagine if they shut down the site for 24hrs...
  • 3 1
 @Golden-G: 'Smoking weed is far less stupid than drinking alcohol'
I can't see how. Depends on the level of cosumption I guess, but comparig apples to apples is the same shit, I've drunk and smoked enough to know.

And 'you can die of' is not a valid point. You can die by drinking too much water too... or mountain biking itself.
  • 1 1
 @ismasan: Sorry, then I’d have to say you have no clue what you’re talking about.
  • 4 0
 elaborate, please, you got my attention.
  • 5 1
 @ismasan: There are an endless amount of studies out there that compare the harmful effects of alcohol vs. cannabis, and there really isn't any comparison. Alcohol is so much worse for you, and while you may be right on the level of consumption, the "average" usage of both would lead to this conclusion for sure, and any over usage or abuse, would easily side with cannabis. Then there are the other effects on how each impair driving or other daily tasks, and again, no comparison. I'm just tired of seeing alcohol and cannabis put on the same level, because they are vastly different. Time will show this though too, as more and more research is done to back that up. One is a medicine and one is not.
  • 1 0
 @ChachiArcola: exactly, a medicine, I fully agree on that and still smoke a couple puffs the couple times a year that I can't sleep. Tried to convince my mom to try a low thc/high cbd strain to substitute the cortisol too.

But do you take diazepam to kill time? Nope.

Nothing bad with recreational use as long as is ocassional, same I don't have nothing against alcohol (or any other drug) as long as is done right.

But all I see is addicts. Alcoholism is more eviden't and when heavy, has higher consequences, but I've seen long term weed induced anxiety and mental issues, healthy guys who can't sleep without their 'medicine' anymore, a close friend who literally in his own words has been high for 20 years straight, and many others who quitted for whatever reason and reported feeling more awake and active (just go back to smoking in most cases).

So yeah, maybe weed doesn't turn you into a bufoon tumbling around who can't even speak but the point is that altering your consciousness with substances as a past time is stupid. evermind the substance. And I say so as a guy who's overdone loads of shit and seen even more.
  • 2 1
 @ismasan: one is a lethal poison. One is a harmless, natural plant.
Have another drink mate!
  • 1 0
 @Golden-G: would you give weed to a
10 year old kid for recreational use? why?

Also being natural is not an argument. Arsenic and cianide are all natural too. Also alcohol occurs naturally in fallen fruit and some animals go get drunk.

But you fail to understand that I'm not advocating for alcohol vs weed, mate!
  • 1 0
 @ismasan: have to say I agree with a lot of what you are saying. Some people (quite a lot of people) have addictive personalities and I smoked way too much weed in my 20's. Had a slight 'relapse' in the last year or so and can honestly say that it is not conducive to a productive and healthy lifestyle.

I love weed but know I mustn't touch it anymore as I've a responsible career and kids.
  • 1 0
 @ismasan: I really don’t care what you think.
  • 1 0
 @ismasan: you make far dumber decisions when you’re drunk then when you’re high. Thats facts
  • 25 0
 Reading a story that feels like 40 mountainbike years ago and then you find the name Greg Minnaar in it.
  • 16 0
 Good read. As a crusty OG freerider, I like to think there were shining moments of victory or fame that sat in my hands for a moment that became memories before they ever became tangible. There’s a sweet melancholy in what could have been.
  • 18 0
 C’mon Matt, keep passing it around
  • 16 0
 I remember that race well, the only world cup race I've attended. I had time off for the Victoria-Vancouver trip, but none of my friends had the day available. So I took my OG Kuwahara cruiser up Mt.Fromme, all the way to Grouse, via the "back entrance". It was free to attend by accessing the venue that way, and they even had a bike check for those who braved the many switchbacks to get there.

I was equipped with a crappy lunch, bunch of smokables, and a 6-pack in my backpack. Super excited to cruise the pits before hand, and even met up with the only one of my buddies who was racing, Mike Jones for Norco Factory. Found a good spot to chill for the race, and was amazed at the speed those guys accomplished on what was a short but very chunky track. I was just getting into proper DH riding at the time, and seeing legends like Minnaar and Petey absolutely rip by was very inspiring. The rain was a proper deluge, and it didn't stop. I knew about the Houseman brothers from my obsession with Decline magazine (yes Dirt was always way better), but wasn't really familiar with them, and was kind of bummed at the time that one of my heroes didn't take the win. In retrospect, a bunch of really unfortunate and unprecedented UCI drama would unfold throughout the next few weeks. That race was so inspiring, I devoted the next 4 years to working winters so I could spend the summers travelling around BC racing DH bikes.

Even after the race, it was still a rain squall sh*t show. I think I had gone through 5 of the 6 beers I was carrying, and then proceeded to 2 wheel drifted my slick tire Kuwahara all the way down Grouse/Fromme. At the bottom I realized I had worn through my rear pads, and almost through my rim. Well worth the time and parts to fix it.
  • 1 0
 Dave!! What a fun weekend. I remember it well Smile - Mike
  • 1 0
 @caradock: Hey Mike, It's actually Neil. Great event. I was so pumped to get to see someone from the OBB crew race a WC. Cheers buddy.
  • 16 0
 Great story. Terrific writing. Thanks, Levy!! Hope ya feeling better.
  • 19 4
 It is absolutely impossible to go downhill without getting high first
  • 3 2
 Gold
  • 10 4
 This my own life experience, but for me smoking weed didn't make a postive contribution to my riding or life. Time spent smoking up was unproductive. Without it, I am better at planning great rides/trips, keeping my body fit and bike dialed, and not overloading on carbs! My race results were drastically better before and after the years where I smoked pot. Also, I am better at remembering the good times. Weed affected my memory during the time consumed...those years are somewhat of a hazze. I have friends that ask "remember that ride...?" and I can't.
  • 6 0
 The sport of DH had some very cool characters back then. Cedric, Palmer, Peaty and more. The man was the fastest down that hill the one year DH racing was held at Grouse mountain. He knew he broke the rules and accepts it. I don't think anyone believes the joint he smokes days ago gave him a performance boost. Keep riding Smoke in moderation. Ride on .
  • 6 0
 Great read. Houseman deserves respect for 1) laying down the fastest run that day, 2) acknowledging that he broke the rules (as silly as they may be) and accepting the verdict, and 3) having the strength of character to move beyond any anger and prioritize his family and career afterwards. Justice and fairness are two different things, sometimes.
  • 7 0
 What an awesome story. Growing up in Rural Australia everyone out here smokes green, if not something worse. Never new it was a banned substance though.
  • 6 1
 Great read. I remember that event very well. Johnnys wipeout on that big finish line jump threw me big time. The violence of it , the sudden momentum stop of the next big Australian rider. One if the few times it made me consider the sport I was passionate about. It was crazy. I also remember Santa Cruz keeping him on the program years after when he got into more marathon riding. Nostalgia real.
  • 5 0
 Duncan Riffle was awarded the 2004 US National Championship when the fastest person, Chris Del Bosco was stripped of the first place title after testing positive for THC. I always heard that Myles Rockwell was the reason they started banning marijuana as a performance enhancer. Rumor has it he would blaze a doobie in the ganjola on the way up for his race run and then smoke fools on the way down. He dominated so much that they started enforcing a THC ban.
  • 5 0
 Hey here's a more quantitative question: If THC were indeed performance-enhancing, could we show that it is to a greater extent than caffeine? Can it be shown that THC 'smoothing you out' has a greater effect than caffeine making you objectively more alert?
  • 1 0
 Mmmmm really good point @Albert4252, it’s refreshing to see a scientific approach to this issue! I think these effects should be studied closely in a CGE !
  • 5 0
 Props to Houseman for never paying that fine. Completely bogus that they only go after DH guys for THC. Historical irony is that the prize money in the original Repack races was a bag of weed. It’s part and parcel of MTB culture.
  • 5 0
 If anyone's interested, below is a link my documentary Mike referenced. I made the film when I was 25 yrs old with a borrowed mini DV cam and a $0 budget. My idea was to do a project juxtaposing three World Cup DH riders with very different personalities, at different points in their careers, and wouldn't even be in the same room together if not for bike racing. This was mostly the 2003 season, and the project focused on Eric Carter (champion and consummate professional), Johnny Waddell (up-and-coming, flashy young Australian), and the 39-yr-old full-time longshoreman and journeyman racer, Orlando Martinez. Rich and Gary Houseman happened to be teammates with Waddell on an early version of the Santa Cruz Syndicate; plus, EC was married to the Houseman's sister, so there were many intersecting aspects of the folks involved.
Looking back, it's crazy to think about all of the drama that organically unfolded during the year or so making that movie. Once finished, I could afford to produce ~2000 dvds (before iTunes or streaming really existed), most of which eventually sold; but, I might have a box of 100 or so kicking around if someone's interested in a collector's item...
A couple of years ago, I put the full movie on youtube so it can live on freely in its standard-definition glory...

www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQt7fChX0mw
  • 8 2
 Great article! He should of used Rude's excuse... I must of smoked from someone else's bong and got THC by mistake... Now back to our regular program...
  • 8 0
 I love the fact that he's not paying the fine.......
  • 4 0
 Good on him, the sport did let him down and its funny that he still wont pay that fine. Its a world away from the recent PED scandals in MTB and it does seem like the big money has shifted the soul and ethos of riding mtbs.
  • 9 4
 I actually smoke pot before most activities I do.Makes everything from work to working out that much better. oh yeah.....only top shelf buds for me too.
  • 11 0
 Username checks out, continue on sir!
  • 4 0
 Hi buddy
  • 1 0
 Agreed
  • 7 0
 Smoke a Fatty for Rebagliati an Houseman
  • 7 1
 Weed is Domino's sales enhancer not performance enhancer!
  • 5 3
 I don't want to know anyone who eats Domino's.
  • 6 0
 That's a great read and very interesting story Mike!
  • 2 0
 Yeah really interesting story. Thanks for that and the fun illustrations guys!
  • 3 1
 Mountain biking was created by long-haired riders toking up to get off on the downhill. It was ubiquitous at early 80s races. Now it's a banned substance even though it doesn't improve performance or mask other performance enhancing drugs. WTF UCI? We need a new NORBA sanctioning body,
  • 2 0
 Mountain biking had moved way past kooky by 2003. Levy was accurate describing the difficulty qualifying to race the WC. Just as accurate describing qualifying AT the WC. To win one, near impossible. I was there that day as a spectator. I was still attempting to qualify to race world cups and was gutted I couldn’t race that track in my home town. 2004 would grant me those and by 2005 I was in business. Hardest thing I’d ever done. Gary won that race and everyone knows it. My friend Sara lost her DH Veterans Word Champions title for the same thing. It was heartbreaking. Two winners with missing gold medals (or a shadow boxed stripped jersey in Sara’s case,) in the den and two that have Default victories. They know they got beat that day. Every time they tell the lil story when someone asks about hardware. There’s the asterisk.
  • 4 0
 Good long form story Levy; actually great content from an original time at a WC race. I distinctly remember the Earth segment documenting that victory.
  • 2 0
 great article. one of your best. I recall Gary when he and Rich first hit the scene around 2000? THey were a lot of fun, big, strong Cally dudes. What a heavy heavy conclusion to the story. I hate that his emotions are still so disappointed after all these years. Here's to ya Gary ! a gol-dang World Cup winner !! Own it buddy !
  • 2 0
 They were actually ripping in the 1990's. Gary was on the first real junior team, the Rock Shox Devo Team, with the fastest junior Americans and Australians. The bikes sucked back then, but it was a good time.
  • 2 0
 Despite being from Vancouver I didn't go to the '03 Grouse race for some reason but did go to the '03 Mont St Anne race (long story). So we were actually at the finish line and saw the Waddell crash. It was awful; everyone knew right away it was very serious. Others had huge crashes on that last jump as well including Hugo Donais, who said later he had dodged a bullet not getting seriously hurt but was understandably very spooked afterwards. Martin Whiteley took the view at the time that that particular jump was arranged so you actually had to slow down to hit it correctly, which is a very dangerous thing when that has to be correctly gauged at speed. It's much better when you have to accelerate into the jump, or like most of the drops then seem to put at the ends of tracks like Snowshoe, make them so they can be hit as fast as you can go. This was a lovely, well written article and brought back a lot of memories.
  • 6 2
 pinkbike should do a weed tasting test/review, what buds are better for what type of riding and such...
  • 5 0
 Fantastic story, but we needed some period photos.
  • 3 0
 I saw Steve Peat smoking a banger up the woods in Innerleithen, circa 97, Brass Monkeys Winter series... Beer in teh left paw.
  • 4 0
 Anyone who rode the Whistler gondola more than once during that era would've tested positive by contact alone
  • 1 0
 Smoking weed made me and my buddies slow at everything, so I can´t believe that it could enhance DH racing performance at all. Still, rules are rules, so if you are a racer, don´t smoke it. This is a great text, masterfully written, most interesting story.
  • 2 1
 getting baked and then riding my bicycle is great fun but for people who dont smoke or "cant handle being high" should not smoke before riding. unfortunately my local riding club, basically no one smokes pot. i brought a decently large joint on a ride once and took it out atop the climb and asked if anyone wanted a few tokes before we descend. i was the only dude that toked
  • 2 1
 There inlies the problem. Your cycling club is straight edge. If you're cool with it nevermind, but life is far too short to hang out with "uptight" individuals because Lord knows there are plenty of dbags on bikes too!
  • 3 0
 Ahh awesome! Good to hear he's still riding! Would be awesome if they dropped the fine and to see him racing again!
  • 4 0
 This was a great read. Thanks for sharing!
  • 4 0
 Great read and great drawings - great story!
  • 4 1
 Great article ...Houseman was the MAN that day...relax..smoke a bowl...UCI can stick those Swiss francs up their ASS! Smile
  • 7 7
 Great article, no doubt. The background story is compelling. The truth of whether or not THC is performance enhancing is completely beside the point though. If you want it to be an allowed in a riders system, petition for it to be changed. The fact is, to be an elite racer, there are rules. There are rules where I work. All he had to do was not smoke weed. I remember feeling no sympathy for him back then.
  • 10 0
 Do you have any sympathy now?
  • 4 2
 if it pleases the crown, may I please put something in my body that's none of UCI's (or the government's) prerogative?
  • 1 1
 So imagine if your job took away a promotion because you " drank a beer "... Sure rules, we all live by them. Some are dumb as hell, but then again I could less about competition and $$$.
  • 2 0
 @Beez177: If part of my job involved me not drinking a beer and I drank a beer, I could face discipline. Thankfully it does not. However, those would be terms that I agreed to in your hypothetical example and therefore the employer would have every right. If you don't like the rules, make a case as to why they're out dated change them. That way it won't be an issue for anyone. Otherwise you're just an entitled person who believes the rules don't apply to them.
  • 3 0
 Excellent Mike. More stuff like this. Filling the space that Dirt used to fill and doing it bloody well!
  • 1 1
 Glad you liked it. More soon Smile
  • 4 0
 Gary Houseman is the man, I was so stoked when he won that race!!!
  • 1 0
 Pay the fine, you already own'ed the mistake (probably harder than paying the fine!), and go race! You're doing yourself a disservice by not paying the damn thing and forgoing the racing! I think that's a shame.
  • 1 0
 Could "calm nerves down" be an argument for any ammount smoked !? ( Asking out of pure ignorance, I don't smoke and dunno if that would even be a thing.......)
  • 2 0
 From my personal experiences I would say yes. The effects are more often than not quite calming.
  • 3 0
 It can work both ways, for sure. Some people get really bad anxiety from weed. I certainly enjoy it while riding, but I'd think the lack of focus would more that outweigh any calming benefits, at least at that level of competition.
  • 3 0
 I was there snapping photos during those years. Fun event, great venue
  • 4 1
 Worlds fastest stoner .... respect
  • 4 1
 hero.. big up for trashing this rules mashinery as a whole.....
  • 3 0
 does anyone knows where I can see this race again?
  • 1 0
 Great story about a great rider who had a strong belief in himself and right & wrong and stood by his life decisions instead of hiding behind them
  • 2 0
 Love these type of articles! So cool to get some unique insight into the history of mountain biking
  • 1 0
 Sometimes the biggest expense is the mental taxation of a broken system. With the help of stories like this we can fix that too.
  • 1 0
 I'm surprised he only suffered a separated shoulder after crashing into Minnaar. I would have thought that meant a heli evac.
  • 2 0
 Glad there isn't testing in amateur races....
  • 4 0
 Username checks out, good day sir.
  • 1 0
 @Beez177: hehe it's a give away, I'm a bad man ????
  • 2 0
 Check out "Grass is Greener" on NetFlix.
  • 1 0
 For some reason chaums March decided to do a clinic here in Minnesota and I was able to attend.
  • 1 0
 I hear he is one of the best instructors. Your opinion and have you been to others?
  • 1 0
 @iamamodel: he was really great and I have not been to many others.
  • 2 0
 Great story Mr. Levy! I appreciate content like this
  • 2 0
 What a good, well written story. Thanks for sharing.
  • 2 0
 Never up voted so many so often, stay loose I always say.
  • 1 1
 Not gonna lie I'm faster when I'm high...Meanwhile the advanced teams were shooting up masking agents and HGH. In my opinion of course.
  • 1 0
 I've backpacked on it, I've mountain climbed on it. I've mountain bikes on it.....hell, I can do god damn Calculus on it.
  • 3 0
 Gary won. End of story.
  • 1 0
 "Waddell was taken off the course on a stretcher and unconscious"

I hope they got him off in less than five hours...
  • 24 27
 So you are not willing to prosecute Houseman but you will call the case of Jared, Richie and Martin a scandal? I am still under influence of latest psychedelic experience (which I would hope would last forever in terms of how sensitive I am to people’s feelings, bit old stuff starts piling up on the life desktop) and find it awful to write anything in here. Because this place is filled with folks who can’t wait to point a finger at someone and call him a cheater. Salivate at the very thought of pointing a wrong doer. As if they needed it to be able to look into the mirror. And it is awful. It hurts me because I know it hurts those people. I wish people would put their life in order before they start playing judges and even

I just mean: it’s a “scandal” because there’s quite a few people who enjoy recreational outrage at the cost of others. It is a form of sadism since malice is obviously intended. Our community wins nothing on shaming Richie or Jared. It barely wins anything on praising Martin. But the latter at least makes you feel good, because you would have to be a genuine douchebag to not feel shitty after calling someone all those names. It hurts you. Take some MDMA, LSD or mushrooms and read the comments about Richie, you will realize what sort of vibe flows from them, how damaging it is for everyone. It’s a poison, a blow, a spit in the face. And what you do to others comes back to you. So stop doing it.

One day there may be an article like that about Richie. Great job Mike. I always wanted to do illustrations for your pieces, but it seems Taj was really a better choice.

Peace. I don’t want to be here anymore.
  • 9 3
 Yes, I think most people would have some sympathy for Houseman and consider the recent enduro cheating as more of a real scandal. Move along and ramble on...
  • 4 1
 Drugs depends on:
1- who`s taking them
2- how good they are
3- how often they are taken
4- in which conditions they are taken
5- how good the feelings are once taken
6- what`s the social opinion about them

I see some drugs simply like a catalyser; depending on the subject, consequences can be ``good``... or catastrophic.
  • 11 2
 Who else expected a random angry paragraph from Waki? Stunner...
  • 3 14
flag WAKIdesigns (Sep 11, 2019 at 6:45) (Below Threshold)
 @Laymo: I feel sorry for you. I empathize with your pain. Is it your parents that were so hard on you, that you are hard on yourself and thus hard on others? Tell me the last time you could cheat and you didn’t? Show us a lump of you? Who are you? Who put you in the position of a judge who knows what is right or wrong? What credentials do you have to be able to say you can tell right from wrong? Point me to someone who can say: Laymo (whatever your name is) knows what he is talking about when it comes to doping. Because you should have some reason to pick up a stone and throw it at someone who has not been proven to cheat. I feel sorry for myself to have read your shit and shit of other anonymous cowards. It is nothing more but being a back stabbing coward. A troubled kid that goes around and destroys shop windows because he is too stupid to realize what he is doing. We, normal people who are not afraid to live up to our own standards do not care about your fake morals, we owe nothing to you. Learn to leave this awful part of your world. It will be hard, but it is worth it. Say 21 times, I want to think well of people instead of assuming their malice. Say it 21 times. I dare you.

Smoking weed and taking nutropics can help you
  • 5 0
 @WAKIdesigns : I agree there is nothing gained in finger pointing, but it is not simply malice, I can like Rude and Maes personally and still be upset that they cheated - it is more about integrity in a sport we love. Perhaps the focus should be less on them and more about the racers that were denied their rightful victories.
  • 4 1
 @WAKIdesigns: can I eat some mushrooms and watch you draw really f*cked up bikes
  • 7 3
 @WAKIdesigns:
Gotta agree with Waki here. The PB community has changed over the last few years and I find it pretty toxic a lot of the time.



@ddd It's also worth remembering that Rude and Graves were found NOT to have cheated. Nobody on here knows the circumstances, perhaps not even them, and yet so many people love to think they're better than them. Horseshit.
  • 1 1
 @WAKIdesigns did you forget about the illustrations you did for our secret project? Smile
  • 1 1
 @brianpark: that’s another thing hehe Smile Taj did a great job!
  • 4 0
 @WAKIdesigns: Why are you talking to me like I'm the only one who has negative opinions about about the enduro cheating? Any sports fan should be disappointed with cheating, and when the athletes give what seem to be disingenuous excuses they are going to get some negative feedback. You are the classic control freak internet bully, and a creepy one at that.

I guess you're also too dumb to realize that by going on a meaningless rant about the cheating in enduro you only bring more negative attention to the cheating enduro riders you refuse to be critical of?
  • 2 0
 @WAKIdesigns: Agreed. Definitely an overall display of hypocracy here, unless the tokers making comments above were not the same as those comdemning the EWS racers.
  • 3 0
 @Laymo:
What cheating? There's no conclusive proof of any foulplay whatsoever.
  • 1 1
 Mountain Biking would be real fun on the DARK SIDE OF THE MOON!.....Brain Damage and Eclipse!
  • 1 0
 Would've been better if he was smoking a bowl on the lift ride up.
  • 1 0
 Weed is my "performance enhancing drug"! What a joke UCI!
  • 2 0
 lol i usually see more shit than i would sober but my reaction time is highly delayed. gotta find a balance
  • 2 0
 Puff Puff Pedal!
  • 2 1
 Smoke Rasta Go Faster!
  • 6 0
 You missed a great opportunity to say "go rasta be fastah"
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