ADELAIDE:Swimmer Shayna Jack said she “proved a point” after emerging from under a dark doping cloud to make Australia’s world championship and Commonwealth Games freestyle teams.
The 23-year-old, part of Australia’s 4x100m freestyle team that set a world record in 2018, was banned for four years after testing positive to muscle growth agent ligandrol in an out-of-competition test in June 2019.
The revelation was hugely embarrassing for Australian swimming at the time, coming just days after then Olympic champion Mack Horton staged a high-profile protest against Chinese rival Sun Yang.
Horton refused to share the podium with Sun at the 2019 Gwangju world championships, reigniting a row from the 2016 Rio Olympics where he labelled the Chinese star a “drug cheat”.
Jack always claimed innocence and won an appeal to have the ban reduced to two years after the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport, sport’s highest judicial body, ruled she “did not intentionally or recklessly consume the prohibited substance”.
“I think I proved my point, but I will continue to fight back and do what I do best, which is racing, all the way through to Paris (2024 Olympics),” she said after finishing second in the 100m freestyle at the Australian championships on Wednesday.
It was enough to earn her a spot at the world championships in Budapest next month and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in July.
With Tokyo Olympic 100m freestyle champion Emma McKeon skipping the Australian event and the worlds, Jack swam a personal best 52.60sec in her first meet back — the second fastest in the world this year.
Fast-rising 18-year-old Mollie O’Callaghan touched first in 52.49 to be the world’s quickest in 2022.
“I just wanted to be here and stand behind those blocks with my head held high and swim my race,” added Jack.
“I had so many emotions going through my body and I’m just glad to touch in that time and get myself back on the team.”
Jack admitted before the race that she seriously considered walking away from swimming as she dealt with the drug accusation, saying she got to “a really dark place”.
“I wanted to quit, I wanted to move on and just give it all up,” she told host broadcaster Amazon Prime.
“I guess the only reason I didn’t was because the people who knew my goals and my dreams reminded me that I shouldn’t and I should fight to the end and prove everyone wrong.”