Australian swimming great Giaan Rooney said she may have quit swimming if faced with the same circumstances that confronted Shayna Jack.
Jack has the chance to seal a return to the Australian squad tonight, when she lines up in the 100 meter freestyle at the national championships in Adelaide, which doubles as the selection trials for both the world championships and Commonwealth Games.
Her heat time of 53.27 seconds was the equal second quickest of the eight qualifiers for the final.
The 23-year-old was banned for two-years after testing positive for the drug Ligandrol in an out-of-competition test in 2019. She maintained that she unknowingly ingested the drug and “would never intentionally take a banned substance that would disrespect my sport and jeopardize my career. “
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Rooney, who is covering the championships for Amazon Prime Video, says the hurdles Jack has overcome are extraordinary.
“I can honestly say, if that had happened to me, I do not think I would be lining up to swim again,” she told Wide World of Sports.
“I’m so excited to see her race, my respect levels for her had always been sky high, given the way she handled herself during the whole controversy.
“Hearing her talk about the toll it took on her, and her family and loved ones, let alone financially, and the implications of what was being said about her, she never once said she would not swim again.
“I do not know if I’ve ever come across an athlete like that, with the determination and strength of character.”
Rooney, a gold medallist at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, pointed out that the two-year ban will have taken a toll.
“The mental challenge is probably more difficult than the physical challenge, and it can not be underestimated,” she explained.
“For Shayna, the mental challenge was so tough, not only having to defend herself against those allegations, and I absolutely believe she had no knowledge of those substances entering her system.
“To try and prove your innocence, to come up against international media and condemnation, to have people think you’re guilty and just another drug cheat, to not be able to train with your squad, I do not think a lot of people understand how hard that is.
“Swimming is an individual sport, but I could not have done it without my squad. If I was rocking up to training and the rest of the squad did not show up, I’d almost pack my bags and go home. It’s so hard to do it on your own, yet that’s what she had to do. “
Another swimming legend, Grant Hackett, told Wide World of Sports the time away from competition was “brutal.”
“I can not imagine what it would be like to be benched for more than two years in the middle of your career,” he said.
“It’s certainly a setback, and it would make you question whether or not you want to be in the sport. The emotional roller coaster over that period, it would have been very, very difficult.
“There’s probably a sense of relief, and also a desire to prove herself as one of our top athletes.”
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