Isaac Cooper On Being Sent Home From Comm Games: “This Is The First Step Back Up”

2022 COMMONWEALTH GAMES

  • Friday, July 29 – Wednesday, August 3, 2022
  • Birmingham, England
  • Sandwell Aquatic Center
  • Start Times
    • Prelims: 10:30 am local / 5:30 am ET
    • Finals: 7:00 pm local / 2:00 pm ET
  • LCM (50m)
  • Meet Central
  • Event Schedule
  • Entries (in seed order) – h/t to Troyy

Australian Olympian Isaac Cooper has shed some light on why he won’t be racing at the Commonwealth Games next week.

Cooper, an 18-year-old who made the final of the men’s 50 backstroke at the World Championships last month, was a favorite to win gold in both the 50 and 100 back at the upcoming Commonwealth Games, but was sent home from Australia’s pre-meet training camp earlier this week.

In a statement, Swimming Australia said Cooper was removed from the Commonwealth team due to “wellbeing challenges” that included the use of medication.

Cooper released a statement on the matter on Thursday, opening up about the mental health difficulties he’s been facing and crediting Swimming Australia for recognizing them and taking the necessary action.

“The last few days have been tough. I’ve had to undergo a lot of self-reflection and examination. The decision made to send me home was based on my behavior and mental health and was made in my best interest and that of the team competing at the Commonwealth Games,” Cooper said.

“My misuse of medication was not banned substances. It was ultimately my well-being and mental health that resulted in me going home.”

 

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Cooper goes on to say that he’s reached the point in his career where he has to move on from Rackley Swim Club, based in Brisbane, where he’s been training since early 2021 under coach Damien Jones.

Rising distance freestylers Sam Short and Thomas Neill also train out of Rackley.

“They have done wonderful things to support me and have brought me to the level that I am at today,” Cooper said of Rackley. “I will forever be grateful to my coaches and the support staff but more than anything my squad mates. You are my family away from home and it breaks my heart that I won’t be seeing you everyday any more.

“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.”

Read Cooper’s Full Statement Below:

The last few day have been tough. I’ve had to undergo a lot of self reflection and examination. 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 well being 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.

More than anything I wish I could be there, racing with my team and cheering them on. 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.

I have also come to the point in my career where I will have to move away from Rackley Swim Club. They have done wonderful things to support me and have brought me to the level that I am at today. I will forever be grateful to my coaches and the support staff but more than anything my squad mates. You are my family away from home and it breaks my heart that I won’t be seeing you everyday any more.

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 there 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 up back up. I’ll see you there.

A Swimming Australia spokesperson told SwimSwam that the medication being used by Cooper was not Stillnox, a prescription medication the organization ran into problems with back in 2014, ultimately leading to it being banned by Swimming Australia.

Cooper was coming into the Games in Birmingham as the #1 ranked swimmer in both the men’s 50 back (24.44) and 100 back (53.55) in 2022.

The Bundaberg, Queensland native had a breakout year in 2021, qualifying for the Australian Olympic team in the men’s 100 backstroke, going on to win a bronze medal as a member of Australia’s mixed 400 medley relay.

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Calliope
4 months ago

Swim AUS has to start accepting some responsibility for its athlete management and its coaches. An independent commission issued 46 recommendatins a while back based on SA’s poor systemic treatment of its athletes, and there has been really zero action other than burying the text of the report (still unreleased).

anonymous
4 months ago

Whatever happened this intervention is the best thing for him. “Misusing medication” can tank a swim career and a life.

MIKE IN DALLAS
4 months ago

His statement raises as many questions as it answers. If an athlete wishes to keep his life private, that’s fine. However when he steps into the public with such a long statement, then he should expect additional critical questions to be asked and he should be able in time to provide specific answers.

Sub13
Reply to  MIKE IN DALLAS
4 months ago

Does it? He openly said he is having mental health issues which led to him taking medication and ultimately him being sent home. I’m not sure what else you expect him to say? “On 9 February 2022 I was diagnosed with depression and prescribed 2mg of fluoxetine, but subsequently that wasn’t sufficient so I started to take sleeping pills”. Like what level of detail also you expect you are entitled to?

Cf Dressel who has said nothing for a month after dipping mid championships with no explanation whatsoever.

torchbearer
Reply to  MIKE IN DALLAS
4 months ago

People have the right to privacy and confidentiality around their own health- and can release/discuss as much or as little as they like. Ultimately your health is no one elses business.

swimapologist
Reply to  torchbearer
4 months ago

It’s funny the way people talk about “rights,” especially in America. Yes, he sure does have the right. The same sets of standards and laws that give him that right also give us, his fans, the right to be annoyed and frustrated at the silence.

Let us not forget or pretend that athletes, especially ones who are earning as much as Caeleb is, also ask things of us, his fans. He asks us to buy swimsuits, he asks us to buy Toyotas, he asks us to buy tires, he asks us to watch his swimming races, he asks us to buy tickets to the ISL. Just before Worlds, in fact, he asked us to strike the word “can’t” from our… Read more »

torchbearer
Reply to  swimapologist
4 months ago

This is exactly the attitude that is causing the mental health issues in athletes- fans demanding they have a ‘right’ to know everything, including intimate health (including mental health) details…just because an athlete does an ad for a car or soft drink. That is not what you are buying when you purchase an endorsed product. Patient confidentiality is a fundamental bedrock of healthcare provision-not a tradable ‘right’.

Tomek
4 months ago

Life was simpler before onslaught of social media…

Meathead
4 months ago

Cooper is handling this situation with maturity, self awareness, and class way beyond a typical 18 year old. Hope he gets in a good place and is able to continue his career.

With so many swimmers experiencing mental health issues, I hope the governing bodies of the sport give more time, attention, and money to helping these young athletes. This is clearly not a country specific issue but a cause that needs to be addressed by the entire sport.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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