When Shayna Jack was approached for a routine drug test in Cairns while training for the 2019 World Swimming Championships, being busted was the last thing on her mind.
Jack was aspiring to make the team for the next Olympic Games and a stellar career beckoned. But the moment she received the result, she went from a promising young swimmer to persona non grata in the pool.
“One day I was an elite athlete and the next day, everything that I knew had just been taken away from me in one moment,” she says. “I had to fight for my career.”
Despite maintaining she didn’t take the substance knowingly, Jack’s sample had tested positive for trace amounts of a banned muscle-enhancing drug. A nightmare scenario ensued for the next two years as she fought and failed to clear her name.
“Very quickly it turned into absolute hysteria and it was a real lynch mob,” says the former head of Swimming Australia, Leigh Russell.
Jack’s case raises important questions about drug testing in Australia and she’s found herself at the centre of a much bigger debate about world anti-doping rules that many believe are catching out innocent athletes. And she’s found support in unlikely places:
“We’ve had dozens of cases where athletes are dealing with low level positives caused by meat contamination or intimacy with a partner, multivitamin or mineral or supplement contamination,” says Travis Tygart, CEO of the US Anti-Doping Agency. “It’s the rules that have to be changed to be more fair.”
“I don’t want other athletes to have to go through what I’ve been through,” says Jack. “One day someone’s not going to get through it.”
PRODUCERS: Rebecca Armstrong and Kristine Taylor
Watch Fish Out of Water on Monday 8 March at 8pm on ABC TV + iview.
You can watch replays on ABC NEWS channel on Wednesdays at 12:30am, Saturdays at 6:30pm and Sundays at 2:30pm and 9:30pm. All times are AEDT.