Australia’s Shayna Jack says she will return to swimming next year with a clear conscience after the Court of Arbitration for Sport halved her four-year doping suspension, ruling she did not intentionally ingest the banned anabolic agent Ligandrol.
The 22-year-old freestyler was withdrawn from last year’s world championships team in June 2019, days before they started in South Korea, having tested positive for the substance in an out-of-competition test.
Swimming Australia provisionally suspended Jack before the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority said she would be banned for four years commencing 12 July, 2019 – a period of time lengthy enough that it would have effectively ended her career.
She subsequently appealed against the suspension to the Cas, which reduced her doping ban to two years and found the Queenslander did not knowingly take Ligandrol, which is supposed to add muscle mass without the side-effects of steroids.
“The sole arbitrator in charge of this matter found, on the balance of probabilities, that Jack did not intentionally ingest Ligandrol and considered that she had discharged her onus of proving the anti-doping rule violation was not intentional,” the Cas said in a statement.
“As a consequence, the sole arbitrator imposed a reduced period of ineligibility of two years, commencing on the date of her provisional suspension.”
Jack’s ban will expire in July 2021, though she will still be suspended during the Olympics selection process, meaning it will be too late for her to compete at the postponed Tokyo Games starting in late July.
But the Queenslander is vowing to return to swimming, relieved to be cleared her of deliberate doping after having maintained her innocence throughout 18 months of public scrutiny.
“The CAS have confirmed in emphatic terms that I did not intentionally, knowingly or recklessly use Ligandrol in any manner,” Jack posted on Instagram. “I have proven that I have not ever cheated, nor used prohibited substances intentionally or knowingly.”
Jack said she would accept the two-year ban “with a positive attitude and with gratitude that my career as a swimmer will resume next year”.
“I have never doubted myself for a minute throughout this ordeal and I have never allowed my integrity to be compromised,” she wrote. “I walk a little taller … with the fact that this ordeal is finally over. I am returning to swimming – the sport that I have loved all my life and the sport that I will cherish just that little bit more ongoing.”
Swimming Australia welcomed the Cas verdict and called for empathy for Jack. “The approach to anti-doping is deliberately strong and needs to be … we have a zero-tolerance approach to doping and always will,” Swimming Australia said in a statement on Tuesday.
“However, this does not mean that we cannot demonstrate care and empathy for young people who are part of our community, who are thrust into a complex system that can be overwhelming, often confusing and confronting.
“It must not be forgotten that athletes have rights in the anti-doping system, one of these rights is confidentiality. Shayna is a young and driven athlete and we hope the outcome of the hearing enables her to move forward after a difficult period.”