MELBOURNE, Australia, February 25. THE sleeping pill Stilnox has found its way into the Australian swimming community conversation again, as the legendary Grant Hackett is set to enter a rehab center in the United States for the prescription drug.
The two-time 1500 freestyle Olympic champion left for the United States today from Australia three days after he was filmed at the Crown Casino half-dressed in a state of panic after his four-year old son, Jagger, had disappeared from Hackett’s hotel room. According to a report in the Daily Mail, Hackett “wasn’t thinking straight” as he searched the casino for his missing son. Jagger was found unharmed later on another floor of the casino.
The newspaper does not indicate that Hackett was under the influence of Stilnox at the casino on Saturday night, but says the athlete has had a history of Stilnox abuse that goes back to the 2008 Olympics. Though not on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances, various national swimming federations have voiced concerns over athletes possibly misusing them. The sleeping pill is often praised by athletes for its lack of a “hangover” side effect, which can be helpful at major competitions, or when traveling long distances. It does, however, cause hallucinations and impaired judgment, according to the Daily Mail.
Swimming Australia banned athletes from using Stilnox before the 2012 Olympics, and admonished the six members of the 400 freestyle relay last year for taking the pill during a pre-meet training camp as part of a special initiation ritual. The use of the drug, and the actions taken that night by the relay members, caused a ripple effect in Australian swimming that included a restructuring of administration and new team policies.
As for the 33-year-old Hackett, who retired in 2008 after the Olympics, it is not known where he will be treated for drug use or how long he’ll be in treatment.