Swimmer Shayna Jack's 'nightmare finally over' but what will it mean for sport's anti-doping regulation?

© Provided by ABC News Swimmer Shayna Jack’s doping case was dismissed by the Court of Arbitration on Thursday. (Instagram: Shayna Jack)

Shayna Jack has returned to the pool and in her own words “the nightmare is finally over.”

Her ordeal fighting anti-doping authorities began on June 26, 2019, when the then 19-year-old returned a positive sample to the banned substance ligandrol, during a random drug test.

What ensued was a lengthy court battle, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars for Jack to prove she didn’t intentionally take the banned substance, reducing her four-year suspension to two.

But that wasn’t the end.

In December last year, the leniency of the decision was appealed by several anti-doping bodies and in effect, put the promising swimmer’s career on ice once again.

After two years and three months, the ordeal ended when Jack received a call from her lawyer Tim Fuller on Thursday night.

“She’s over the moon,” he said.

Counting the cost

The appeal by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and Sport Integrity Australia (SIA) had been thrown out by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“Obviously getting the news … it’s the finalisation of a really long process, over two years,” Mr Fuller said.

While Jack said in a social media post, she was taking time to reflect, Mr Fuller provided an insight into the emotional, mental, and financial pain Jack has endured.

“She went through every kind of endeavour she could think of to try and determine how it got into her system,” he said.

“That meant testing of all sorts of foods, testing things like nail polish, testing of her hair, body scans.

“Today she would look at that sort of cost and say it was well worth the money that was spent.”

Significance for future cases

Mr Fuller said her efforts could set a precedent.

“I do think when somebody goes to the extents that Shayna went to try and show what may have happened, that will be significant in future cases,” Mr Fuller said.

“There needs to be some sort of flexibility and discretion shown for people like Shayna Jack when they’re caught up in a system beyond their control, and when there’s no evidence at all that this person has been involved in doping, abandon the case.”

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is yet to reveal why it dismissed the appeals from both WADA and SIA.

Catherine Ordway is an expert in sports management from the University of Canberra and is eagerly awaiting the justification.

“That will be a really interesting document for people to review, sports lawyers around the world, national anti-doping associations, and of course the world anti-doping agency,” Dr Ordway said.

SIA chief executive David Sharpe said the organisation would also review the decision in full.

“This matter wasn’t about pursuing an individual athlete, it was very much about providing clarity and consistency to athletes and sports in the application of the World Anti-Doping Code,” he said.

Experts like Dr Ordway have long argued the case for innocent athletes caught up in advanced testing technologies.

“Shayna Jack has been exonerated up to a point, but because of the really onerous rules on athletes having to demonstrate their innocence, she still got a two-year ban,” Dr Ordway said.

“The laboratories are so much more sophisticated than they ever were before and that they’re able to detect really minute amounts of sample that could have come from almost anywhere.”

Fellow squad member and Olympic gold medallist Ariarne Titmus said she looked forward to training alongside Shayna Jack when she returned to Brisbane.

“When I get back to swimming, we’ll all reconnect and it’ll be back to normal,” Titmus said on Friday.

“I was on the trip when she got called home and it was a massive shock to all of us, so I know that she’s really gone through it tough.

“I’m glad that she’s finally able to swim again and, I guess, be free.”

What next for Shayna Jack?

Jack has continued training remotely throughout the process, but can now return to her squad at St Peter’s Western in Brisbane, alongside Titmus and under coach Dean Boxall.

Mr Fuller said Jack’s goals included qualifying for the upcoming World Championships and Commonwealth Games in Birmingham next year.

“You do learn a lot about their character, and I have no doubt that Shayna Jack’s got the character and the toughness to come back and to compete at the highest level,” he said.

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