(Mack Horton makes his statement to the world.
(Mack Horton makes his statement to the world.

Biggest blow of all puts Aussies back to square one

Australia, we now have a problem.


Our backyard pool is no longer looking sparkling clean. That water is ugly and muddy.

Swimmer Shanya Jack's positive test - to a drug that hasn't been confirmed - is devastating for the Australian swim team, who were on stunning high with strong performances in Gwangju.

There was a strong sense Australia was "back" in the pool, breaking world records and winning gold, but that has now all been overshadowed by Jack facing allegations she is a drug cheat.

Jack's positive now casts a troubling, dark shadow over Australia's Mack Horton's classy podium protest - where he refused to take the dais alongside convicted drug cheat Sun Yang.

"F---ing hypocrites," is what one Chinese coach messaged to an Australian coach following Jack's positive test emerging on Saturday night.

Shayna Jack has tested positive to an as yet unknown drug.
Shayna Jack has tested positive to an as yet unknown drug.


China and Australia's relationship has never been at a lower point on the pool deck.

Jack, who was sent mysteriously sent home on the eve of World Championships, is yet to face an investigation.

But one year out from the Olympics this positive test is dire for Australian swimming. The accomplished and tough Swimming Australia chief executive Leigh Russell has an enormous challenge on her hands.

The highly funded and much loved Australian sport is facing a huge challenge.

Those close to the chief executive say there is nothing she can't tackle.

But what is emerging globally is that international swimming has well and truly has graduated to the same levels of doping suspicion once held by track and field athletes and cyclists.

Swimmers are getting 'done' all the time and in cases like Sun surviving punishment even though he smashed his blood vials and competing regardless stinks.


Mack Horton will be looking for revenge in Tokyo.
Mack Horton will be looking for revenge in Tokyo.

In light of all this Sun v Mack is set to be the race of the Olympics. A proven drug cheat versus an activist for clean sport.

It has been one of the most explosive weeks in swimming history in Korea and tensions between the two aren't expected to cool before the Tokyo Games. Yet Horton won't be able to protest like he has in Gwangju.

The International Olympic Committee rules would see him stripped of an Olympic medal - and unsurprisingly FINA introduced rules to do the same after Brit Duncan Scott refused to take the podium for a photo with drug cheat Sun.

Many Olympians and international swimmers have publicly backed both Horton and Scott's stance. Swimmers are overwhelmingly sick of FINA's insipid efforts when it comes tackling drug cheats.

There is an urge for "zero tolerance" of drug cheats.

The revolution started brewing seven months ago.

Mack Horton makes his statement to the world.
Mack Horton makes his statement to the world.

Tired of not being respected, a number of high-profile swimmers have flocked to the new International Swimming League, set up by Ukrainian billionaire Konstantin Grigorishin.

In a meeting room at Chelsea Football Club last December, some of the best swimmers in the world - including Australian Olympic silver medallist Madeline Groves and Olympic champions Adam Peaty, Chad le Clos and Federica Pellegrini - outlined what they wanted the ISL competition to be.

One of the most important rules? 'Zero tolerance' for doping violations.

Not everyone has admired Horton's stance not to step on the world championship podium. To his detractors, Horton has been dubbed "unsportsmanlike" and by several Chinese coaches as a "jiba tao" - which when translated means something a bit worse than "dickhead".

To his supporters? A hero.

But whatever you think, Horton's protest about Sun, who was found to have used performance-enhancing drugs in 2014 and most recently suspiciously smashed up his own blood vials that were due to be tested, has well and truly signalled the rise of the swimmers' 'voice'.

Since Rio, when, with FINA's blessing, the entire Russian Olympic team competed despite revelations of systematic doping, swimmers have understood that the highest officials aren't on the clean athletes' side. .


Sun Yang has been at the centre of plenty of controversy in South Korea.
Sun Yang has been at the centre of plenty of controversy in South Korea.


Over many years, FINA has been eroding the integrity of the sport. As one prominent international coach put it: "FINA; they do whatever the f... they want."

FINA operates with zero transparency. Cover-ups are not unusual. It's an old-world hierarchy - someone has to die on the FINA executive before they are replaced. There's not a single woman on the executive and most men at the top travel with a female assistant trailing them.

In Sun's most recent controversy, the swimmer avoided even a rebuke from a confidential FINA panel after smashing blood-filled vials when drugs testers arrived at this home.

The World Anti-Doping Authority appealed the ruling to CAS. The case is not set to be heard until September.

That is a year after the initial incident and leaving him free to compete in the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyle in Korea.

The leniency is unsurprising.

Sun has described several high-ranking FINA officials as his "grandfathers".

It is clearly time for revolution, not an evolution, in this sport.

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