Snowboarders: ‘We messed up’
Two professional snowboarders were passing through Douglas County last weekend, going from competition to competition, when they had to pay an unexpected visit to the county jail.
“Coming on vacation; leaving on probation,” said Michael Rogel Kildevaeld, while in custody Tuesday.
Kildevaeld, 31, of Hood River, Ore., and Frederic Brett Tippie, 29, of Kamloops, British Columbia, were arrested Saturday night on Highway 395 near Topaz for allegedly possessing marijuana.
Kildevaeld competes for the Denmark snowboarding team, and Tippie is a member of the Canadian team. Kildevaeld competed at the Winter Olympics in Nagano and placed 15th in the men’s giant slalom. Tippie said he “didn’t quite make it” to the Olympics.
The two men, along with friend Anton David Pogue, 29, of the U.S. snowboarding team, were traveling from Kirkwood Ski Resort to Big Bear, Calif. On the drive, they were pulled over for speeding 83 mph in a 55-mph zone on Highway 395. They were later arrested for allegedly possessing and being under the influence of marijuana. Sheriff’s deputies said Pogue showed no signs of being under the influence and was not arrested.
Possession of marijuana is a felony in Nevada, a more serious crime than in many states and countries and a fact that Kildevaeld and Tippie were unaware of. Both said they were surprised when sheriff’s deputies took them into custody.
Neither one of the athletes is enjoying his time in jail.
“(Jail) is a real eye opener,” Tippie said Tuesday at Douglas County Jail. “It’s scary. I wish I was snowboarding right now, not behind bars and looking out a four-inch window, looking at the mountains.”
The two appeared in East Fork Justice Court Monday, where they were appointed attorneys. Both men face felony charges of possession of marijuana and misdemeanor charges of possession of drug paraphernalia. Kildevaeld, the driver of the vehicle, also faces misdemeanor charges of speeding and driving under the influence of drugs.
Tippie’s bail is $5,000 and Kildevaeld’s is $7,000. They were in custody Tuesday, but indicated they might be able to make bail. They are scheduled to appear in Justice Court again today for a pre-preliminary hearing.
Both men said they had never been arrested before, and being handcuffed, frisked and locked up were all new experiences to them. They said they have not been mistreated and have been dealt with the same as all the inmates.
However, they said the food was better than hospital or airplane food.
With spring approaching, Tippie and Kildevaeld said they had completed their snowboarding work for the year. They were taking it easy, and that is what led to the arrest.
“Our job is over for the year,” Kildevaeld said. “We were relaxing. We just took it a little too far.”
Both indicated they had made a mistake.
“We’re professionals, and we just messed up,” Tippie said.
Possession of marijuana is a category E felony, which requires mandatory probation. Tippie and Kildevaeld said the arrests might hurt their careers. Not only will they pay a fine and face probation, they may lose money from sponsors and endorsements.
However, even if their careers are unaffected, Kildevaeld said the situation has been bad enough.
“I have no idea what’s going to happen,” Kildevaeld said. “This is the scariest situation I’ve ever been in – no question.”
With gambling and prostitution legal in Nevada, Kildevaeld and Tippie said they were surprised that possession of marijuana was treated more seriously than in most places.
They commented on another recent snowboarder who was nearly punished while competing in a country which also has strict marijuana laws – Ross Rebagliati, the Canadian snowboarder nearly stripped of his gold medal in Nagano, Japan. In Canada, the men said, the punishment for marijuana is “a slap on the wrist.”
Kildevaeld, who competed along with Rebagliati, said he doesn’t think the marijuana controversy has hurt the new Olympic sport.
Tippie said a recent poll indicated 80 percent of people around the world supported Rebagliati receiving the medal.
The two men do not expect much controversy for the sport rising out of their arrests, either.
“Jay Leno will definitely not be calling us,” Tippie said.
Both men said they have competed throughout the world. At last year’s World Championships, Tippie placed 11th and Kildevaeld placed seventh. Tippie said he is also a professional mountain biker; Kildevaeld is an aspiring pro mountain biker.
Although their experience in Douglas County has not been a pleasant one, both athletes say they have learned from it.
“After we’ve both done some time in here, thinking about our lifestyles,” Kildevaeld said, “I’ve never been more serious about straightening up my act, and I know Tippie’s the same way. I just wish it didn’t have to be this way.”
Kildevaeld said he hoped children would not emulate their actions just because they were professionals.
“If you do stupid things, you’re not going to go anywhere,” he said. “If you do this twice in this state, you’re definitely not going anywhere.”
Both men said they are looking forward to putting this situation behind them and hope they are not used as examples by the Douglas County court system.
The Record-Courier E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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