Australian swimmer Shayna Jack in Brisbane last month.
Australian swimmer Shayna Jack in Brisbane last month.

Australia rocked by doping ‘cover up’

SWIMMING Australia has been accused of exposing the country to "global ridicule" following accusations of an attempt to cover up Aussie swim star Shayna Jack's positive doping test in the lead up to the 2019 Swimming World Championships in Gwangju.

Australian relay world-record holder Jack denied wrongdoing on Saturday night after she failed a drugs test and was sent home from Australia's swimming camp in Japan earlier this month.

The 20-year-old, part of Australia's 4x100m freestyle team that set a world record at last year's Commonwealth Games, failed an out-of-competition test late last month and has been suspended, Swimming Australia has confirmed.

The ugly nature of Jack's positive test being revealed during the Swimming World Championships after Aussie star Mack Horton's public protest of controversial Chinese swimmer Sun Yang has left Swimming Australia and Horton open to global ridicule.

 

Australian swimmer Shayna Jack is seen after her heat of the Women's 200 metre Freestyle at the World Swimming Trials at the Brisbane Aquatic Centre last month. Picture: AAP
Australian swimmer Shayna Jack is seen after her heat of the Women's 200 metre Freestyle at the World Swimming Trials at the Brisbane Aquatic Centre last month. Picture: AAP

 

Having last week been celebrated as a posterboy in the fight to stamp out doping from the sport, Horton has been left hung out to dry by his teammate's test - and the disastrous appearance of Swimming Australia's alleged attempt to cover it up.

Swimming Australia on Saturday night was accused of stabbing Horton and other Aussie swimmers in the back by failing to notify them of Jack's failed test, despite Jack testing positive on June 26, a full three weeks before the start of the meet.

 

Swimming Australia let Horton make his global stance, knowing Jack's bombshell was going to blow up in his face.

In response to widespread anger and criticism of Swimming Australia's handling of the crisis, the governing body released a statement declaring it was bound by legal demands to keep Jack's preliminary positive test result classified until its investigation into the situation was concluded.

This statement was also accused of being a lie, allegedly deepening the stench of a cover up in the eyes of some Aussie swim commentators.

Former Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) chief Richard Ings was among the first to point out Swimming Australia had authority to release Jack's preliminary positive test - but chose to keep it under wraps.

SWIMMING AUSTRALIA'S STATEMENT TORN TO SHREDS

 

Emma McKeon, Shayna Jack, Cate Campbell and Emily Seebohm were unstoppable together.
Emma McKeon, Shayna Jack, Cate Campbell and Emily Seebohm were unstoppable together.

Swimming Australia confirmed on Saturday night Jack had tested positive to a banned substance on June 26.

"Once Swimming Australia was made aware of the adverse test result, it immediately took action - in accordance with the national policy - to provisionally suspend Shayna from the Australian swim team while a process was under way and accompanied her back to Australia from a training camp being held in Japan," the statement claimed.

"The Swimming Australia policy also means that any Australian athlete under provisional suspension, while ASADA investigations are under way, cannot take part in any competition, meaning Shayna was unable to travel to Gwangju to compete at the 2019 World Championships."

That costly decision not to announce the findings has left Horton and Australian sport with egg all over its face.

The cone of silence that Swimming Australia is accused of using to handle Jack's scandal reached all the way down to coaches and athletes who were forced to declare they had no knowledge of the reason behind Jack's decision to leave the team on the eve of the competition.

Swimming Australia officials also said they were unaware of the reason behind Jack's withdrawal, despite the 20-year-old being stood down weeks prior to the meet.

Chinese media were among the first to mock Australia's reputation on the global stage, which has been torn to pieces by the handling of Jack's positive test.

Former USA swimming coach Alex Pussieldi was also among those to declare it a bad look for Australia.

Former journalist and South Australian politician Frank Pangallo wrote on Twitter: "Oh dear. This isn't a good look for our country & team after the Horton episode".

Far more concerning than accusations of an attempt to hide behind a legal demand to keep Jack's test private, is accusations Swimming Australia deliberately chose a strategy of covering up the scandal - just as it was accused of doing in during the Stilnox scandal following the 2012 Olympics in London.

 

Former News Corp swimming journalist Todd Balym wrote on Twitter Swimming Australia's "s***storm" has left the country wide open to ridicule.

He also said Horton and his fellow athletes have every right to be furious at Swimming Australia for the betrayal of leaving them in the dark.

 

 

 

CHINA RESPONDS TO AUSTRALIAN 'EMBARRASSMENT'

 

Mack Horton refused to shake hands with Sun Yang.
Mack Horton refused to shake hands with Sun Yang.

Chinese media has reported Jack's preliminary positive doping test as revenge for Sun Yang following Horton's podium protest last week.

One media organisation even said Jack's test was divine intervention.

"Revenge has come so quick. God is helping Sun Yang," the outlet reported.

 

The first positive test related to the Gwangju world championships is embarrassing for Australian swimming after Olympic champion Mack Horton's protest against Chinese rival Sun Yang in Gwangju over salacious claims he smashed vials of blood following a test last year.

American media also described the situation as an embarrassment for Australia.

Horton came second to Sun in the men's 400m freestyle event last Sunday, then refused to acknowledge his Chinese competitor, who he has previously called a "drug cheat."

Sun received a three-month ban after testing positive for a banned substance in 2014, and is facing renewed allegations with his fate to be decided at a Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing where the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will challenge FINA's decision to hand Yang a warning instead of issuing a suspension.

Australia's Horton took a highly visible stance when he snubbed Sun at a medals ceremony, provoking a furious reaction from China's 11-time world champion, who accused him of "disrespecting China" by not stepping on the podium.

Britain's Duncan Scott copied Horton after Sun retained his 200m freestyle title and several swimmers, including King and fellow Olympic champion Adam Peaty, spoke out in support of the two.

But Sun's coach Denis Cotterell slammed his fellow Australians for "double standards", noting Horton's Australian teammate Thomas Fraser-Holmes was banned by FINA for 12 months for missing a trio of drug tests.

Jack's failed test will now supply Sun and China with plenty of ammunition to shoot back.

Swimming World Magazine reported "the explosive revelation could hardly come at a worse time for Australian swimmers in a week in which Mack Horton and others have been so vocal and visible in their criticism, with others from around the world, of Sun Yang and any who fall foul of the WADA Code".

The difference between Jack being sent home pending the final verdict to her doping test while Sun Yang has been allowed to compete, despite a Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing looming in September, has also not ben lost on some commentators.

Many said Swimming Australia's decision to send Jack home is exactly what China should have done with Sun Yang.

 

 

JACK REVEALS HEARTBREAK AT DOPING TEST

 

Shayna Jack will miss the Olympics if the preliminary test result is upheld.
Shayna Jack will miss the Olympics if the preliminary test result is upheld.

Jack, who returned home days before the start of the world championships in South Korea citing "personal reasons", denied deliberately taking a banned substance.

"I did not take this substance knowingly," Jack posted on Instagram. "Swimming has been my passion since I was 10 years old and I would never intentionally take a banned substance that would disrespect my sport or jeopardise my career."

 

But American Lilly King savaged the swimmer later on Saturday. "She's a drug cheater," sniffed the Olympic champion. "She has tested positive on a drugs test - doping is doping." Australian officials ushered Jack back to Australia from a world championship training camp in Japan after the results of the June 26 test and gave her a provisional suspension, Swimming Australia said.

Relay teammate Cate Campbell said: "I had absolutely no knowledge of this before tonight. We stand for a clean sport and I think the fact that Shayna isn't here strengthens that stance." Swimming Australia chief executive Leigh Russell expressed sadness at Jack's failed test.

"As you would expect, we are bitterly disappointed with allegations a swimmer has a prohibited substance in her system although it is important to point out that the matter is yet to be determined," she said.

"We will continue to provide appropriate support for Shayna. Our organisation will continue to reaffirm our zero tolerance approach.

Jack's agent Phil Stoneman said Jack's test was kept quiet because she didn't want to distract teammates.

"She would have liked to have come out with this but she would have preferred to have waited in relation to the announcement because she didn't want to take away from the achievements of the team," he said.

"She supports Mack in his situation, she certainly understand her position but she feels that she's now going to be tarnished with somebody else and she's done absolutely nothing wrong.

"She's not a drug taker, she's not a cheat and she never has been and now she's going to be accused of something she hasn't done."

-with AFP