Newspaper article Tweed Daily News (Tweed Heads, Australia)

Baggaley Crawls Back from Brink of Hell; SPECIAL REPORT: Olympian Gets Personal Life on Track

Newspaper article Tweed Daily News (Tweed Heads, Australia)

Baggaley Crawls Back from Brink of Hell; SPECIAL REPORT: Olympian Gets Personal Life on Track

Article excerpt

Byline: Rae Wilson

AFTER a career shining in the world's sporting spotlight, Olympic medal-winning kayaker Nathan Baggaley found himself strapping magazines around his waist in case he was stabbed.

The triple world champion went to hospital to get stitches from ahitting his china on a table and had frequent asthma attacks while housed with a smoker in NSW jail cells.

His life began spiralling out of control after he tested positive to steroids in 2005 and was suspended from his sport at the height of his career.

Without the structure of an elite athlete's rigid training regime, Baggaley discovered the fun of late nights, parties and drugs.

The Byron Bay-raised 36-year-old got caught up in his brother's criminal enterprise, manufacturing and supplying 1509 ecstasy tablets in the Northern Rivers and Gold Coast areas in 2007.

He was released in November last year after serving four years of a 6.5-year jail sentence, reduced from nine years after an appeal.

This week, in Brisbane Supreme Court, he was given a 12-month suspended jail sentence for leftover Queensland offences, possessing pill press parts and ecstasy at Mermaid Waters earlier in 2007.

His parents Noel and Susan Baggaley, who live at Suffolk Park in Byron Bay, have described how they watched firsthand athe highs and lows of Nathan's life unfolda.

In a letter to the court at the Brisbane sentencing, the Baggaleys talked about how their son had aaccomplished so mucha after years of adiscipline, dedication and sheer hard worka.

But they watched his life aturned upside downa when the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority suspended Baggaley for 15 months.

A second blow came when the world canoe body would not accept the Australian decision and increased the ban to two years.

aEven though it was proven the failure of Nathan's positive test was through no fault of Nathan's, the two-year ban remained,a they wrote.

aThis sport had been his life and lifestyle for the last 15 years.

aFrom that time on, Nathan's life unravelled.

aHe had no direction, no ambition to achieve a which was completely new to him.

aHe did not have to be disciplined to go training, his time was his own and he had nothing to do.

aIt was at this time in his life that he began to drink more and to party more and so began his experimenting with ecstasy.a

Baggaley had been involved with the Northcliffe Surf Lifesaving Club, patrolling the beach just south of Surfers Paradise every month for 15 years.

He represented Australia internationally from 1997 to 2005, winning two Olympic silver medals for kayaking and three world championships. The Australian Institute of Sport named Baggaley Athlete of the Year in 2003.

But this fame in the sporting world and endless media coverage about his fall from grace made prison difficult for Baggaley, his parents said. …

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