“I felt my heart break instantaneously. I couldn’t breathe to answer her next couple of questions. There was nothing I could do at that moment, nothing the people around me could do to help me. I was in complete shock, asking myself how and why is this happening to me. My brain repeated over and over: “I have always checked my substances”, “I didn’t do this”, “why is this happening to me?”, “I’ve done nothing wrong”.”
These words were written by Australian swimmer Shayna Jack about the day her life got “turned upside down”. It was the 12th of July when she was notified by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority that she had tested positive to a prohibited substance.
The banned substance discovered was Ligandrol, a drug used to promote muscle growth and treat osteoporosis.
Jack was provisionally suspended and sent home, unable to compete in the World Champions in South Korea as planned. At the time of the meet Swimming Australia said she had left for “personal reasons”.
Back home, on Friday the 19th of July things got worse when her second, ‘B’, sample results came in. Despite her ‘sense of hope’ that it would prove her innocence, it didn’t.
The B sample tested positive too.
“As I read the results, my brain couldn’t even comprehend what I was seeing. I had to reread it several times before I felt that same pain and heartache all over again. I instantly turned to my grandma, who was with me at the time and wailed.”
It was another week before the story broke and the 20 year old Jack became front page news and topped most TV and radio bulletins around the country.
The timing could not have worse.
In the days prior her fellow Australian teammate Mack Horton had dominated global sporting headlines due to his protest against Sun Yang, a Chinese swimmer under investigation for doping, at the World Championships.
Given this backdrop Swimming Australia has been criticised for keeping Jack’s positive test under wraps, but the body insists it followed legal protocol in waiting for the second result and its own investigation before going public.
It's the revelation that's left our athletes red-faced on the world sporting stage – and today, Swimming Australia described Shayna Jack's positive drug test as "embarrassing" and "bitterly disappointing". @DamoNews #9News pic.twitter.com/YXSCI4HdAQ
— Nine News Sydney (@9NewsSyd) July 28, 2019
Horton himself praised Swimming Australia’s stance.
“I was disappointed to learn late yesterday that a fellow Dolphins team member had recently returned a positive A sample,” Horton said. “I applaud the decision to immediately withdraw the athlete in question from further competition until this matter is resolved. My position remains firm — clean sport must be a priority for all athletes, all sports and all nations.”
Jack insists the positive test is a mistake and not the result of her intentionally taking a banned substance. She is determined to clear her name and her management say they will investigate how it happened. Ligandrol is reportedly found in some contaminated supplements.
"We believe it is a contamination. We believe it's
certainly not a supplement she's taken. It could be anything … It could have been from some food, it could have been from a water bottle. We don't know." – Phil Stoneman, @Shaynajack’s manager. #abc730
— abc730 (@abc730) July 29, 2019
The onus is on athletes to ensure they don’t ingest banned substances in any form and Jack herself says this is something she has always taken very seriously. She is hoping a diary she kept of all the supplements she’s taken will help clear her name.
.@libby_trickett on Shayna Jack: I would like to believe that she is innocent. When you compete at this level there is a lot of pressure on an athlete, which is a reason why drug cheating happens. Hopefully this can be resolved quickly.
MORE: https://t.co/FLtEGKsmxB #firstedition pic.twitter.com/vYJC54w1UE
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) July 29, 2019
Given Australian athletes are tested so regularly, it is difficult to believe Jack would knowingly take a banned substance.
But equally it is difficult to accept that whenever Australian athletes test positive for banned substances we’re expected to assume and believe it’s a conspiracy.
However it is resolved Shayna Jack is in a deeply unenviable position.