Australian swimmer Shayna Jack has admitted she “didn’t want to be here anymore” amid the fallout for returning a positive drug test and that “one day someone’s not going to get through it and …Sports Integrity and other organisations in the world are going to have blood on their hands”.
- Swimmer Shayna Jack has been banned for two years for testing positive to Ligandrol, but maintains her innocence
- Experiments in a new documentary show athletes’s skin merely brushed with banned substances can lead to positive tests
- CAS arbitrator Richard McLaren says the system “is perhaps more loaded against the athlete”
Jack is one athlete featured in a new documentary by investigative journalist and doping specialist Hajo Seppelt, with the film to be aired on German television network ARD over the weekend.
Titled Doping Top Secret: GUILTY – How athletes can unintentionally become dopers, the documentary hears from several athletes who have fallen foul of sport’s strict anti-doping regime which immediately assumes guilt, leaving no room for the possibility of innocence.
It goes further.
Working with the Cologne doping control laboratory, recognised as one of the world’s best, a series of tests are conducted where athletes’ skin is lightly brushed with banned substances to simulate a possible handshake or hug from a person who themselves has been in contact with a contaminated substance.
Within hours, the athletes return positive tests that would result in a doping ban.
Some of the athletes were still returning positive urine samples two weeks after the brief encounter.
In an interview for the documentary, Jack says having someone on Instagram tell her to kill herself for being a drug cheat set off a negative spiral.
“It hurt so much having somebody question who I am,” she said.
Jack tested positive to Ligandrol on the eve of the 2019 World Swimming Championships but had a potential four-year ban for a first offence halved by the Court of Arbitration (CAS).
It heard from one of the world’s top anti-doping experts, Professor Mario Thevis – also interviewed for the documentary — that the low amount in Jack’s system was “pharmaceutically irrelevant”.
During the hearing, Sport Integrity Australia (SIA) “accepted that there was no direct evidence that [Jack] ‘intentionally’ ingested Ligandrol … and there ‘was no evidence of any long-term usage’ of the substance”.
However, SIA and the World Anti-Doping Agency appealed the leniency of Jack’s two-year ban.
The decision in that appeal is expected to be handed down by CAS in the coming days.
“And I didn’t want to be here anymore.
“I am not going to stop until I prove my innocence and fight to get myself back in the pool.
Having reported exclusively on doping and sports politics since 2006, Seppelt says his latest documentary gives a completely different view of sports doping compared to others in his stable at Eye Opening Media.
“Usually we are chasing the international doping networks, reporting about corruption in sports and doping in different countries, for example, Russia,” Seppelt said.
“This time, we have a totally different perspective.
“The reason is that in 2016 a technician from the German Federal Criminal Office told me about possible attacks in doping via the skin and I couldn’t believe it.
“We have been in touch for several years and in 2018 we started an experiment in order to prove if this works as he said, that you can test positive by an attack from a third person by contamination.”
CAS arbitrator and the man who investigated Russia’s systemic doping program, Professor Richard McLaren, is also interviewed for the documentary and was presented with the findings of how easily innocent athletes could test positive.
“The scientific evidence looks compelling,” he said.
“If you’re the person who’s got the anti-doping rule violation hanging over your head, your idea of fairness might be quite different than the doping control organisation that tested.
“I think the system is perhaps more loaded against the athlete.”
That position has been long argued by critics of sports’ current anti-doping regime, but change remains unlikely with authorities sticking to the strict liability clause that states if an athlete tests positive he/she is automatically guilty, the only question that remains is “to what degree”.
McLaren shares the views of organisations such as WADA and the International Olympic Committee that, “the whole system would fall apart if you had to put the burden on the doping authority rather than on the athlete”.
Seppelt describes the situation as a “real dilemma for sports organisations” but says that is no reason “to remain silent” on the issue.
The potential to net innocent athletes, whose lives can be ruined, in the pursuit of actual dopers is currently sport’s most wicked problem.