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Shayna Jack's swimming career has been saved after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) halved her four-year doping ban in a vindication of her defence that she never knowingly took the banned drug Ligandrol.
The 22-year-old was sent home from the Australian camp ahead of the FINA World Championships in South Korea in 2019 after returning a positive sample during a staging camp in Cairns that June.
A defiant Shayna Jack maintained her innocence throughout her drawn-out doping ordeal.Credit:Paul Harris
Jack was devastated by the finding and maintained from the outset that she would never take performance-enhancing drugs. Ligandrol is a SARM (Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator) that is said to help add muscle mass without the side effects of steroids.
It all unfolded amid dramatic scenes in Korea as Mack Horton made his famous podium protest against the now-banned Chinese star Sun Yang, with the Australians quickly labelled as hypocrites once news leaked of Jack's positive test later that week.
She pleaded her innocence with ASADA but was given the maximum four-year ban, which would have effectively ended her swimming career. She appealed that to CAS in September, who regarded Jack as truthful and reliable and reduced her ban to two years, meaning she can be back training with her St Peters Western squad under star coach Dean Boxall in June next year.
Her legal team was unable to produce definitive evidence that would have exonerated her and there is still no firm idea as to how the substance found its way into her system. But the samples she recorded were minuscule and the sole arbitrator in the case found her testimony to be compelling and believable.
It will be too late for the rescheduled Tokyo 2021 Games but will come as welcome news for the Queenslander, who was labelled a 'disgrace' by sections of the media in the wake of her result and forced to endure photographers camping outside of her house and taking pictures of her wheeling out her bins.
Jack had been a star on the rise in Australian swimming. She was a talented freestyle sprinter following in the footsteps of her idols Cate and Bronte Campbell and part of a record-breaking 4x100m relay.
But the test result left her devastated as she suddenly went from a swimmer that went largely under the radar to front page news and one of the biggest sports stories of the year.
In its ruling, CAS said: "The Sole Arbitrator in charge of this matter found, on the balance of probabilities, that Shayna Jack did not intentionally ingest ligandrol and considered that she had discharged her onus of proving that the anti-doping rule violation was not intentional. As a consequence, the Sole Arbitrator imposed a reduced period of ineligibility of two years, commencing on the date of her provisional suspension (July 12)."
She told The Sydney Morning Herald last December that online trolls had told her to end her life and the ordeal had left her emotionally and mentally broken.
"The only reason I knew it was out was that someone commented on a photo that I was a drug cheat and I should kill myself. For me to see something like that, it destroyed me," Jack said.
"I remember posting [a statement] on Instagram then just crying and crying until I had no tears left. Nobody really understood how much it broke me. I’m still broken."
Jack had considered walking away from the sport and would have likely done just that if CAS had upheld the initial ruling from the anti-doping body. Now she will get a second chance at a sport she has devoted her life to and potentially fulfil her Olympic dreams in Paris in 2024.
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