An Insider’s Look at Shayna Jack’s ASADA Briefing as She Fights to Clear Her Name

shayna-jack

Ian Hanson has been involved in the media relations field for many years, working with numerous big names. Having spent time with Swimming Australia, he was tabbed by Shayna Jack to help her navigate the media process during a time of great intensity. This is an account of how Ian spent the day working with Shayna as the young Queensland swimmer started a long, protracted process to clear her name after a positive drug test.

By Ian Hanson

No one can fully understand the pressures that besiege a 20-year-old elite swimmer whose world comes tumbling down when she hears those fateful words: “You have tested positive to a banned substance.”

A banned substance that she had never heard of and one that she could hardy pronounce.

But a banned substance – Ligandrol – that carries a mandatory career-ending four-year ban.

The long, protracted process began in Brisbane yesterday with a five-hour meeting with ASADA – the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority.

She arrived at the office block with her mother Pauline and solicitor and experienced Sports Law Expert Paul Horvath to a media throng that over the past 18 months had been reserved for Australia’s “Sandpaper gate” cricketers Steve Smith, Cameron Bancroft and David Warner and outspoken former Wallaby Israel Folau.

This was a swimmer, at just 20, yet to represent her country at an Olympics – but a member of the Australian all-conquering world record breaking 4x100m freestyle relay team at last year’s Commonwealth Games and a Pan Pac gold medalist alongside her then training partners Cate and Bronte Campbell.

She had the world at her feet and was more than likely going to be part of not only Australia’s 4x100m but also the 4x200m freestyle relay teams at this year’s World Championships.

Plenty to look forward to, plenty to smile about and plenty to get excited about for Shayna and her whole family.

But instead her name and her face have been plastered all over the front pages of Australia’s newspapers – for all the wrong reasons.

Coming to terms with what you have done and that the world as you knew it has been destroyed is one thing. Handling and preparing your defense to clear your name is another.

Managing the media pressures is a beast you rarely see.

I was sitting with her manager Phil Stoneman in a Brisbane hotel 24 hours before she was to meet the ASADA officials planning proceedings for the big day ahead.

It was another balmy 25 degree (Celsius) day in Queensland’s capital – that is also Australia’s swimming capital. Shayna Jack is the latest in a long line of Queensland schoolgirls who have been thrust into the limelight in Australia’s premier Olympic sport.

But this day was far from a pleasant day for Shayna.

Stoneman excused himself from the meeting saying he had just received a message from a shaking, upset Shayna saying: “I’m being followed.” Shayna was out and about in a busy Brisbane suburb going about her daily chores and preparing herself for “her first day in court.”

Stoneman is a family man himself, a triathlete who among his many clients and Olympians is also Rio Olympic swimmer and Commonwealth Games gold medalist Jack McLoughlin. Shayna was visibly upset and shaken that it had come to this and she eventually found her way back to her parents’ home.

The next morning the Jacks woke up to “paparazzi” photos published in Queensland’s Courier Mail newspaper – photos attributed to a “Media Company” who had stalked the family and sold the photos. Photos of Shayna putting out the family waste bin and her mum getting in her car – adding enormous pressures to a girl who swims and who dreams about having her day in the sun at Olympic Games.

Dreams that are diminishing by the day.

I have seen Australia’s sportsmen and women in similar predicaments in a long career in the sports industry and when Stoneman called me and asked me to help him as a mate I didn’t hesitate. It’s what you do in times of trouble and I had a good relationship with Shayna over many years in my former media management roles with Swimming Australia. So we put a plan together to manage Shayna’s media – take all the calls, plan what would be a massive day for her and to make it as smooth as possible.

But all the plans of mice and men don’t always work, no matter how much detail you go into.

I became the media “go to” man and it was something, as I said, I had done so many tines before for the likes of Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett at the heights of careers that hadn’t always been smooth sailing in this swimming mad country.

I spent the day before her ASADA meeting casing out the best entry and exit strategies for Shayna and her team. But the building where ASADA had hired offices at No. 10 Eagle Street in Brisbane’s busy business and restaurant precinct had also been the focus of major political protests to stop Adani mining in Australia.

So it was a nervous group of managerial staff who confronted me and a Channel 7 News crew the day before as we arrived to do a preview story on Shayna’s ASADA briefing – thinking we were attached to the Adani mines protests.

There was a media ban placed on the property. All media were confined to the footpath.

Next morning from 5 a.m., news crews from Channel 7, Channel 9 and the ABC started arriving at the Dexus buiding for a series of Live crosses. By 11 a.m. – an hour before Shayna and her team were to arrive – the media throng, confined to the footpath, had swelled to 50, which included a dozen TV cameras, photographers. Australia’s leading Olympic reporters Chris Reason and Damien Ryan and the ABC’s National Sports Reporter David Mark had all flown in from Sydney.

This was one of the biggest media throngs I’ve ever seen in a non-Games story, and they needed and wanted to be managed.

But it’s amazing what a rogue cabbie can do to derail your plans.

With the media in place, our cabbie – with Shayna, mum and lawyer all nervously waiting to alight – was taken some 100m from the spot reserved for him. After being instructed to drive around the block our cabbie dropped Shayna’s party at another point, creating a media frenzy we had so painstakingly tried to avoid. In the rush well known and popular, Brisbane photographer Darren England hit the pavement hard, going down cameras and all, much to the anguish of all who saw it.

The camera melee greeted an even more anxious Shayna who had to face the camera crews in her face as she walked, her mum Pauline’s arm locked around her daughter’s.

This was a media scrum that goes with this kind of story.

Once inside the building, a distraught Shayna had to get herself together for the first stage of the fight of her life to clear her name. As she gathered herself and her thoughts, team Shayna headed upstairs and the media team busily shook themselves down, filing their reports, their vision, preparing live crosses and a long day on the street.

Our fallen photographer brushed it off as just another day in the office – in the streets of Brisbane.

“How long will the briefing take?” was the most asked question of the day.

For me, I had to shake myself down and make sure that “the rogue cabbie” incident didn’t happen again on the way out. By 2 p.m. the natives were starting to get a little restless and Market Street was becoming a wind tunnel, as we settled in for a chilly afternoon on the street.

How much longer?

By 2:30, we got word, as Phil, his daughter Maddy, who works in the M5 Management Team, nestled into another coffee shop corner as the anxious wait ticked over and over. Then we got word that it would be a 3 p.m. finish…which extended to 3:45….and then out to 4.30…and finally 4:40 p.m.

By this stage, anxiety levels were running high on the street and in the board room where Phil, Maddy and I were waiting to brief Shayna and to be briefed ourselves on what we could and couldn’t say. When they eventually arrived, they were all on edge and just wanted it over so they could all go home. It was an emotionally draining day.

We met with a hug and support that she needed before going out to face the music.

I had written a statement with some key messaging for Shayna and she made it quite clear.

“I have gone over the notes and the messaging and I won’t read them. I want to put this in my words. I want this to come from me,” Shayna said – (Big Tick).

“I want to tell them that I aim to fight this thing and that we will leave no stone unturned until I clear my name.” (Another tick).

She was ready and admitted she had been spooked by the paparazzi and by the media scrum. But she wasn’t backing away. She had grown enormously as a person, but still wondering how do you put a grown up head on a 20 year-old’s shoulders?

It’s a street smartness that comes with going outside a comfort zone that has been gate-crashed in an instant by another side of life in elite sport.

After a further 10 minutes of briefing and an encouraging, “You can do this!,” Shayna switched on, like she was in the call room at a major swim meet as she prepared to walk onto her stage. This time she walked tall and delivered to a waiting media, who gave her the respect she deserved.

This time I’m happy to say it was a smooth arrival to the waiting TV crews going LIVE into their nighty bulletins.

Shayna delivered her statement and answered several questions fired from the throng and solicitor Paul did his thing and delivered the process that would unfold in the pursuing months as they mounted a case to clear Shayna’s name.

Fortunately our rogue cabbie was off duty and Team Shayna were shuffled into a maxi taxi and driven back to their hotel.

The News reporters went National, telling the story of the brave young Queensland swimmer who arrived for an ASADA briefing in tears and left after bravely fronting the media – standing tall saying she was ready to fight for her life and would leave no stone unturned.

But our getaway driver had one last request when he saw who was in his taxi.

“Hey lady…any chance of a selfie?”

“Nah mate…just put the meter on and keep driving…it’s been a big day!”

14 comments

  1. Rex Craig

    Great write-up Ian Hanson!

  2. avatar
    Russell

    Sensational story by the best in the business! Well done ?

  3. avatar
    Andrew

    Dreadful and demeaning article. Jack tested +ve to a banned substance. She was happy to promote supplements to kids on social media. Her decision. Her mistake. Her future. Making her out to be a broken, fragile 20yr old girl pumped up only by media training by middle aged men makes for tragic, outdated and sexist reading. Her statement was scripted, not from the heart, and her lawyer’s ‘she’s been honest so far, didn’t need to be’ statement was just mind boggling. Yet another PR disaster. Almost excited for Horton’s tell all shaking the Swimming world to its core interview this weekend. Swimming Australia has lost the plot. What ever will the next bus bring?

  4. Swim Smart

    Well said Hanso. It’s wallys like the guy aboves comments who have no idea. Santa needs all the support and your the right guy for the job.

  5. avatar
    Jan

    Andrew, give it a rest mate.

    • avatar
      Anonymous

      Nah ‘mate’ .. Doping agencies have been warning athletes for many years that using unapproved supplements comes with a high risk of failing a doping test. Such is the extent of the education available to athletes, if you aren’t deliberately doping then it would be very hard to fail a routine or unscheduled drug test. Jack says she did not knowingly take the drug Ligandrol and “always checked her supplements”. A supplement that Jack promoted on social media was not listed on either of the check your supplements websites.
      Stupid and demeaning opinion piece by Hanson media in my opinion, an opinion obviously not shared by you. Jack is a strong young woman who has made a huge and potentially stupid career ending mistake to earn a few bucks. To put it simply, she deserves to be treated as such by the media organisation supporting her. By the by, someone at SAL should be pulling Horton into line – or are Hanson media going to manage his looming tell all media disaster too? For Hanson media’s benefit, I believe Horton is a 23yr old Aussie male swimmer who is most unlikely to attend a potential career ending legal meeting in the shortest of leather mini skirts.

  6. Rachael Carpenter

    She’s tested positive but isn’t yet a proven drug cheat. I think this young lady deserves to be given a chance to clear her name before people start slinging ‘drug cheat’ at her. She’s 20, this is potentially career ending for her so leave this to play out before making assumptions

  7. John McCormack

    So he’s essentially her PR guy on this so I’m sure there’s no attempt to spin or otherwise enhance the narrative? A sympathetic piece… directly label it as commentary or an opinion to clarify it’s not unbiased reporting/journalism. Hoping she is cleared but SW should not put it self in the position being used for PR?

  8. avatar
    Troger

    What about the allegations of bullying leveled at Shayna Jack’s swim program today in Australian media, that female swimmers have been body-shamed, and that the coaches are overseeing a “military style” program at St. Peters Western?

  9. avatar
    Lou

    Incredible insight & behind the scenes encounter! Great article by a journalist & media manager who’s seen it all during 50 years covering sport.

  10. avatar
    Melbourne

    Horrifying description of Dean Boxall’s St. Peters program (home of S. Jack) and his methods in Sunday Telegraph today. If the sadistic allegations are true, the guy has no business coaching children. Get on the case Swimming World.