If only the world championships ended as well as it started for the swimmers from Down Under.
The much-vaunted Australian squad had an impressive but controversial beginning on the opening day of the swimming program — an upset win by 18-year-old Ariarne Titmus over three-time 400-meter freestyle champion American Kate Ledecky.
Then there was a high-profile shunning by Mack Horton of his 400-meter freestyle opponent Sun Yang.
Horton, angry that swimming’s world governing body allowed Sun to compete at the world championships before his Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing into a clash with drug testers, refused to stand on the podium after finishing second to the Chinese star.
Horton was roundly criticized in China, but was given a standing ovation by fellow swimmers when he returned to the dining hall later that night at the athletes’ village.
Sprint ahead to the final weekend at Gwangju, South Korea, where Australia was on its way to completing a meet total of five gold, nine silver and five bronze medals — second only to the United States’ 27 in total, 14 gold. Suddenly, the Aussie team was tainted by a doping a doping case of its own — and, it seems, not a single person on the team knew.
People who live in glass houses … well, a lot of people in Australia could have finished the rest of that sentence.
Shayna Jack’s A and B doping samples tested positive for Ligandrol, a banned substance which the 20-year-old swimmer said can be found in supplements. But it’s often a drug that body builders use to increase muscle mass.
Swimming Australia was on the back foot through most of the episode.
Jack continues to deny any knowledge of how the banned substance came to be in her system. The A sample results were given to her on July 12, the B sample on July 19, only two days before the swimming events began at the world titles. Jack had already been sent home from a pre-meet training camp, with Swimming Australia saying her departure was for personal reasons.
That means her B sample was returned to her eight days before her failed test became public, news which directly contradicted statements made by Swimming Australia chief executive Leigh Russell after the doping story broke.
And on the Saturday night, shortly after it emerged that Jack had tested positive in an out-of-competition test in late June, Swimming Australia refused to let head coach Jacco Verhaeren appear before the media. That forced swimmer Cate Campbell to answer some uncomfortable questions she should never have been made to answer. AP