Mack Horton has refused to answer questions over the doping scandal engulfing Australian swimming, with the sport’s bosses admitting the saga is “embarrassing” and “bitterly disappointing”.
- When questioned about whether he regretted his own podium protest in light of the scandal, Horton stood silently
- Horton had used the world championships to take a high-profile stand against doping
- Swimming Australia chief executive Leigh Russell conceded the saga was “embarrassing” for the sport
Swimming Australia has come under fire for its handling of the positive dope test by Australian swimmer Shayna Jack, with claims the sport’s governing body tried to cover the news up during the world swimming championships.
News of Jack’s test failure broke on Saturday, two weeks after she abruptly left Australian team preparations for the world titles in Gwangju, South Korea, citing “personal reasons”.
Horton had used the world championships to take a high-profile stand against doping in sport, refusing to share the podium with Chinese swimmer Sun Yang, who he branded a “drug cheat”.
Today he stood in silence when asked if he regretted his stance.
“Just wondering if you had any words about the Shayna Jack dispute?” ABC correspondent Jake Sturmer asked Horton at the world championships in South Korea.
When asked if he had any words of support for Jack, Horton began to walk away.
Australian swimmer Mitch Larkin said the team was “trying to focus on tonight’s efforts”.
Mack Horton takes a stand and refuses to share the dais with Chinese swimmer and long time rival, Sun Yang. (AP: Mark Schiefelbein)
Earlier on Sunday, Swimming Australia chief executive Leigh Russell conceded the doping scandal was “embarrassing” for the sport.
“It is bitterly disappointing, but it also does not change at all Swimming Australia’s view of the absolute necessity to have a clean sport and a sport that is drug-free,” she said.
“I think that Mack has made a stand for something that he truly believes in. I think we actually have the same stance. We absolutely do not want drugs in our sport. I think that Mack made a stance that he absolutely is comfortable with and would be comfortable with that today.”
Australia’s team coach Jacco Verhaeren rejected suggestions that Horton had been hung out to dry by the way Jack’s case had been communicated.
“Would we all do the same [as Horton]? Probably not. But we don’t walk away from it [the discussion] either and particularly not where a fellow teammate, a fellow country member has been found positive,” he said.
“I think it is more time than ever to stand up for clean sport.”
Former ASADA head Richard Ings took aim at Swimming Australia’s decision not to make the drug test public weeks ago, saying: “By covering up and not telling the truth, it makes the story bigger and worse”.
“When an athlete is provisionally suspended, the rules do allow the sport to make a public announcement,” he added.
But Ms Russell insisted Swimming Australia had no choice but to keep the details of the drug test secret until Jack went public.
“Under our policy, it’s very, very clear. We must not speak publicly and we have some very strict confidentiality agreements in place so that only ASADA or the athlete are the ones that can actually speak on the particulars of the matter,” she said.
‘I did NOT take this substance knowingly’
Announcing her positive test on Instagram last night, Jack appealed for privacy as the case played out.
“I did NOT take this substance knowingly. Swimming has been my passion since I was 10 years old and I would never intentionally take a banned substance that would disrespect my sport and jeopardise my career,” she wrote on Instagram on Saturday.
“Now there is an ongoing investigation and my team and I are doing everything we can to find out when and how this substance has come into contact with my body.
“I would appreciate if you respect my privacy as this is very hard for me to cope with.”
American three-time Olympic medallist Ryan Murphy said while the news was “disappointing”, he was taking Jack “at her word”.
“It’s devastating, we had a similar situation a year ago and it’s really hard to deal with that because we have relationships with those athletes, we think about the personal side,” he said.
“In this case we think about how this affects Shayna her family and all that.
“We are trying to take her at her word that it wasn’t intentionally ingested. Hopefully the process works itself out in the next couple of months when you get all the information.”
Meanwhile, Australia’s Kaylee McKeown, Jess Hansen, Madi Wilson and Brianna Throssell advanced to the women’s 4x100m medley relay final after qualifying second fastest for the medal race.
Mitch Larkin, Matthew Wilson, Matthew Temple and Clyde Lewis also qualified Australia for the men’s 4×100 medley relay final.
Cate Campbell is also a contender for gold in the 50m freestyle final and Jess Hansen will compete in the 50m breaststroke decider.
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