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Swimming star Shayna Jack’s ‘dark thoughts’ amid drug saga

by ZwemZa on November 7th, 2021

Australian swimming star Shayna Jack has revealed she had “very dark thoughts” and “no longer wanted to be around” during her ban from the sport following a positive drug test.

The 22-year-old was abruptly sent home from a training camp in Japan with the Australian swimming team in July 2019 on the eve of the world championships after she was informed she had tested positive to a banned substance.

The drug Ligandrol, a non-steroid anabolic agent that can help repair and build muscles, had been found in her system.

Sports Integrity Australia (SIA) handed Jack a four-year suspension in 2019 but her suspension was cut in half by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in November of last year.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and SIA appealed the leniency of the two-year ban a month later but in September, the Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissed the appeal, allowing Jack to continue her swimming career.

Jack, who was immediately sent home to Australia from Japan after learning of the positive test, has opened up on how her mental health deteriorated while she was serving the ban.

“I had to train alone, and make sure I was out of the pool before anyone showed up,” she told the first issue of the QWeekend magazine, available in Saturday’s Courier Mail.

“It made me feel shunned by my sport, and it made me feel like nothing. Like a worthless person. Like trash.”

Shayna Jack says she ‘no longer wanted to be around’ during her ban from swimming. Picture Instagram
                       Shayna Jack says she ‘no longer wanted to be around’ during her ban from swimming.

“I tried not to read the papers when I got home but I did open my Instagram and the very first message I saw under my photo was a message calling me a drug cheat, and that I should kill myself.”

Despite countless theories and investigations, Jack still doesn’t know how Ligandol got in to her system.

She has now revealed the entire ordeal took an enormous emotional toll, to the extent she considered taking her own life.

“I don’t want to hide anything and I guess I want people to understand that I did the right thing by getting help when I did, in case someone reads this and is thinking that maybe they might not want to be around anymore, because, aah, I didn’t,” she said.

“So I no longer wanted to be around, because I didn’t see a purpose in my life anymore. I’d spent my whole life thinking swimming was the best sport in the world, the most amazing sport, that it would do everything to support me, but I was very wrong.

“In no circumstances did I feel my sport had protected me in any way or helped me, and it got to the point where I just did not want to be here.

“And then I looked at myself and I thought about my parents and everything they’d done to support me, and I looked at (her partner) Joel and my friends, and I thought ‘No, I cannot do that.’

Shayna Jack has opened up on her mental health.
                              Shayna Jack has opened up on her mental health.Source: News Corp Australia
The drug ban took a toll on the Aussie swimmer.
                                      The drug ban took a toll on the Aussie swimmer.Source: Instagram

“And I also thought this is not who I am. I am not somebody who gives up, so I need to get help. I went to my doctor and I said, ‘I’m not sleeping, I’m not eating, I’m having very dark thoughts.’’’

Jack has sought professional help to treat her mental health and is using her experience to urge other people who may be struggling to get assistance.

“I want people to know that I am seeing a psychiatrist and that I went to that dark place, because I want people to know it’s OK not to be OK,” she said.

“Whatever your spiral is, or where it’s come from, it doesn’t mean you’re screwed up, or that there’s something wrong with you.

“It means something has broken you. That’s all … you just need to try very, very hard to fix it.”

The freestyler added she felt “depressed” and largely abandoned by the sport of swimming throughout the saga.

“I have been angry, I have been sad, depressed, traumatised, lonely, shunned and ostracised … but I never gave up the fight,” Jack said.

It’s been a long road back for Shayna Jack. (Photo by MANAN VATSYAYANA / AFP)
               It’s been a long road back for Shayna Jack. (Photo by MANAN VATSYAYANA / AFP)Source: AFP

A talented sprinter, Jack swam alongside Emma McKeon and Cate and Bronte Campbell in Australia’s 4x100m freestyle relay that broke the world record at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

Throughout her ban, Jack was supported by her coach Dean Boxall, who also mentors Olympic gold medallist Ariarne Titmus.

She is determined to bounce back and regain her best form in the pool and hopes to line up behind the blocks for Australia at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

“I will use this positively,” Jack said.

“It’s fired me up, not dragged me down and I am going to use this fire in my belly and the fire in Dean’s belly to propel me forward, and push through any pain because I now know there is nothing I can’t overcome, nothing.”

Read more about Shayna Jack’s trauma of her positive doping test and why she never gave up the battle to clear her name in QWeekend magazine in the Saturday Courier Mail.

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