Australian swimmer Isaac Cooper has broken his silence after being sent home from the Commonwealth Games team, saying the medication he misused was not “banned substances”.
Earlier this week, Swimming Australia confirmed Cooper was scratched from the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham as a result of wellbeing challenges, “including the use of medication”.
The 18-year-old, who won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics in the mixed 4x100m medley relay and was emerging as a future star, will travel back to Australia from the Dolphins’ camp in Chartres, France.
In a lengthy Instagram post, Cooper, who was a good chance of a medal in the 50m and 100m backstroke in Birmingham, said the last few days “have been tough”.
“I’ve had to undergo a lot of self-reflection and examination,” he wrote.
“The decision made to send me home was based on my behaviour and mental health and was made in my best interest and that of the team competing at the Commonwealth Games.
“My misuse of medication was not banned substances. It was ultimately my wellbeing and mental health that resulted in me going home.
“It was difficult to accept in myself that I needed to address my mental health, but I believe that it is an ever present issue in all communities, including that of a professional athlete. I am grateful to Swimming Australia for helping to identify an issue and offering their support and resources to help me.”
It is still unclear what specific medication Cooper used while on team camp.
Swimming Australia has denied any suggestion there has been a repeat of the infamous stilnox scandal that rocked the Australian team ahead of the 2012 Olympics in London.
In his Instagram post on Friday, Cooper said there are “two sides” of the story and he wished he could be in Birmingham to race alongside his teammates.
The teenager had been due to swim in four events — the 50m and 100m backstroke, 50m butterfly and 50m freestyle.
At the Tokyo Olympics last year he finished 12th in the 100m backstroke, and won a bronze medal as part of the mixed 4x100m medley relay.
“More than anything I wish I could be there, racing with my team and cheering them on,” Cooper wrote.
“The team means so much to me and I have made friends for life, but the decision was not made in the interest of the next few weeks, rather the interest for the future of my swimming career.”
“For the next few weeks I will be reflecting and resetting for the future. I will use this time of reflection to also examine the current issues. There are always two sides to a story and I shall continue to work positively and confidentially with swimming Australia.
“I would like to thank the many people who have reached out to me and my family and offered their help and assistance. It means more to me then you will ever know.
“My dad has always told me that Coopers are either up or getting up, but never down. I’m certainly pretty low, but this is the first step back up. I’ll see you there.”
Cooper also said he would be leaving his junior swim club Rackley, in Brisbane.