The adverse finding damns all parties including the athlete, Swimming Australia and Asada
It could be meat, it could be mushrooms, it could be anything. It could be something in a bottle. This was the explanation offered by Shayna Jacks manager, Phil Stoneman, as to the possible source of inadvertent contamination that saw the talented Australian swimmer return a positive drug test for the proscribed substance Ligandrol.
For the 20-year-old athlete at the centre of the furore its a nightmarish scenario. Following Commonwealth gold, and on the cusp of possible world championship success, irrespective of the ultimate finding of guilt or innocence, the spectre of drug-cheating will stalk any future success.
Jack is entitled to the presumption of innocence, and deserves to receive fair process. The swimmer faces a potential four-year ban yet in terms of reputational damage, in an age in which the court of public opinion is swift and corporate sponsors are not often forgiving, the swimmer has already been judged.
Sympathy for Jack will of course be determined retrospectively, once the full truth emerges if it ever does. But in a post-Lance Armstrong world, cynicism is increasing. This isnt the carefree days of Dean Capobiancos steak, or Shane Warnes mums pills since 2015 Ligandrol has appeared in 17 failed drug tests, prompting Asada to issue a specific warning about it to athletes last year.
Swimming Australias handling of the failed drug test has also been found wanting. Adherence to a confidentiality agreement between SA and Asada was the defence offered to explain the governing bodys failure to immediately publicise Jacks adverse test finding a claim former Asada head Richard Ings has openly questioned, claiming the agreement between the two organisations would have allowed SA to air the news as early as 12 July.
Instead, Jacks sudden departure was left shrouded in mystery. Michael Bohl the Dolphins assistant coach and close friend to Jacks coach Dean Boxall told media five days later the whole team was not exactly sure why Jack had departed, maintaining that it was for personal reasons.
And even after the news finally broke a month after the failed test occurred and two weeks after Jack was sent home senior SA figures failed to front media instead allowing Dolphins captain Cate Campbell to field questions as the world championships came to a close.
As management stayed mum, Mack Horton went bang. An Australian swimmer accused a rival of being a drug cheat, while unbeknownst to him, but not management, an Australian swimmer had failed a drug test.
Its not hard to see how rival nations, even some Australian swimming coaches, might call it hypocritical. Especially from a nation that has repeatedly put itself foremost in the fight for a clean sport.
Its a situation SA CEO Leigh Russell admitted was bitterly disappointing and an embarrassment to our country, not least of all because it overshadowed a world championship in which Australia performed brilliantly, with Ariarne Titmus, a stable-mate of Jacks under the stewardship of Boxall, announcing herself to the world in emphatic fashion.
Questions can also be asked of Asada. Explaining why it needed two weeks of confidentiality to investigate the original adverse finding, the Australian anti-drug agency explained, via a statement on Monday: Often it is not in Asadas interests for our investigation to be public in the early phase of our processes.
Via a post on Instagram on 28 July Jack details that the first she, her coach, or her management knew of an adverse test result was 12 July, when notified by Swimming Australia. How any of these figures failed to figure in any Asada investigation conducted between 26 June and 12 July remains a worthy question.
On top of all this sits Fina, the global governing body for swimming an organisation that is already facing an appeal from the World Anti-doping Agency over its decision to allow Sun Yang to compete in Gwangju despite ongoing proceedings against the swimmer.
Hortons persistent attacks on his rival have even prompted a remarkable response from Finas executive director Cornel Marculescu, who characterised the Australians stance as probably more a personal issue than a doping issue and his podium protest as some kind of childish tit-for-tat, calling it a case of you beat me, I must beat you somehow.
Its a startling diminution of very serious allegations by one in a position of such importance especially given the forthcoming Court of Arbitration hearing into Suns case.
In April this year, Campbell called for stronger drug testing protocols worldwide, specifically in response to the Sun case claiming she was 100% certain that all of the swimmers in Australia are clean.
Whether Jacks failed test proves an acute misfortune or something more sinister, that claim now appears under dispute. To the detriment of all parties involved in this sorry saga.