Roz Kelly: Why We All Need To Cut Shayna Jack Some Slack
Hear me out.
Yes, knowingly or unknowingly Shayna Jack took a banned substance, Ligandrol, and the image of Australian Swimming has suffered as a result.
But Shayna Jack also happens to be a 20-year-old girl who claims the drug entered her system through contaminated supplements, that she had absolutely no knowledge or intention of ingesting a banned substance, who has vowed to prove her innocence, and whose world is completely falling apart.
And for the sake of her mental health and well-being, we must find it in ourselves to support her. Or at least, lay off her.
Nobody on the planet can hate on Shayna more than she is hating herself right now. She’s become a household name for all the wrong reasons. She is facing the mandatory suspension of four years, her Olympic dream is in tatters and she’s been dumped from the lucrative International Swimming League. The financial cost is large -- the personal toll, while hard to count, will be nothing short of immense.
There’s absolutely no defence for cheating, or ignorance for that matter. Shayna is old enough to know right from wrong and be responsible for what she ingests. But events of the past have taught us anything, it’s to take a breath and look at the bigger picture.
Long after any ban is served, this will haunt Shayna. The country will move on, we Aussies will find something else to be outraged about, but she will live with this hanging over her head forever.
When the Australian cricket team was caught ball tampering in Cape Town in February last year, it was treated like a national disaster. Even then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull thought it a big enough day of mourning to publicly express his disappointment, saying “it’s beyond belief that the Australian cricket team had been involved in cheating”.
After being banished from the team, Steve Smith, then 28, was chased through Johannesburg airport like a criminal. David Warner, his wife Candice and their young terrified daughters, Ivy and Indi, were set upon by a hungry pack of media on their arrival home to Sydney. Threats and hate mail were sent to both them and their family.
And who can forget Smith, facing up at the press conference at Sydney International Airport? Barely able to breathe, let alone speak, through the sobs of shame and regret. They’ve now served their bans and are winning Australians back with runs, but as we saw at the recent World Cup when their every move was booed, cricket fans around the world won’t let them forget their crime.
It will follow them forever.
Remember that time the “weapons of mass destruction” male sprinters went on a Stilnox bender in the lead-up to the London Olympics? They called it a bonding session. We called it a disgrace, and then piled on them hard for losing the crown jewel, the 4 x 100m freestyle relay.
I saw James Magnussen in tears outside the Aquatic Centre that night. They’d come in fourth, which was as good as dead last. By form, they should’ve become Olympic champions. They lost big contracts and the nation's respect. And they'll forever wonder what may have been, if they didn’t let discipline slip that one fateful night.
The AFL world was shaken to its core by the Essendon supplements scandal in 2013. It defied belief its favourite son, James Hird, could’ve orchestrated the unthinkable. He’s been in and out of mental health clinics since ever since. Jobe Watson was forced to hand back his Brownlow Medal and 34 players served two-year bans. They’ll forever be tarnished goods.
It’s perfectly natural for Australians to feel betrayed, infuriated and disgusted when let down by our sports stars. We pour so much emotional energy into supporting them, we feel like we know them and in a small way, have a sense of ownership over them. We celebrate their triumphs and feel their losses. Australia’s very national identity revolves around our sporting prowess.
But just when we think we will not recover from the hurt they have inflicted upon us, a crazy thing happens. The sun rises and eventually life moves on. We go from angry, to disappointed, to reflective and in some cases, forgiving. These are all very normal and valid human emotions that need working through.
On Friday Shayna will face up to ASADA panel, which will be the ultimate judge of her offence.
She’s let Australia down. She’s let her teammates down. But most of all she’s let herself down, and she doesn’t need anyone else to remind her of that.
Sport brings us together. But when an athlete makes a mistake that threatens their career, it doesn’t mean we have to destroy their life too.