Seventeen years ago, Australian canoeist Nathan Baggaley stood on an Olympic podium and won two silver medals within hours.
But on Tuesday, the three-time world champion was in court in Brisbane when he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his role in a botched cocaine smuggling plot.
Nathan Baggaley and his younger brother were each found guilty by a jury in April of attempting to import up to $200 million worth of cocaine into the country.
At his peak: Nathan Baggaley receives the silver medal in the K1-500m at the 2004 Olympics
Nathan Baggaley leaves Sydney local court in 2015 after pleading guilty to drug possession
Ann Lyons of the Brisbane Supreme Court has sentenced Dru Baggaley, 39, to 28 years in prison.
Nathan Baggaley, 45, will have to serve 12 years in custody before being eligible for parole, while Dru Baggaley will be eligible to apply for parole after 16 years.
Dru Baggaley, 39, and a man he recruited, Anthony Draper, were arrested almost to the day three years ago after venturing more than 360km out to sea on a rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) to attempt to find a foreign national. freighter carrying packages of cocaine.
The men retrieved bundles thrown from the ship after the 11-hour journey, but on their return they threw them into the sea when they were chased by an Australian naval vessel.
They were arrested shortly before the RHIB reached the mainland.
The boat registration was covered in duct tape with Nathan Baggaley’s fingerprints on the bottom.
Baggaley won three world titles in the K1-500m and was recognized as one of the best and most powerful paddlers of his generation
Dru Baggaley was a talented rugby striker before entering the world of illegal drugs drugs
The bundles recovered at the time, along with those that washed ashore months later, contained 650 kilograms of white powder containing cocaine worth between $130 million and $200 million.
Nathan Baggaley — who was on parole at the time of the entry attempt — was arrested almost a year later.
Judge Lyons previously rejected Dru Baggaley’s claim that he should be convicted on the grounds that he only wanted to import tobacco, and the argument that Nathan Baggaley’s role was relatively minimal because he was simply helping his sibling.
Instead, she found that the former world champion was “actively involved in the attempted cocaine importation” and would receive a hefty reward for his services.
Anthony Draper, the man who piloted the boat, was the mastermind behind the plot to collect the drugs offshore, Dru Baggaley’s defense team claimed
The boat bought by Nathan Baggaley, shown during the sea chase by authorities
Drug Baggaley (left, on hood) and Anthony Draper are stopped by specialist Queensland police officers as they try to get their loot back to shore
It was Nathan Baggaley who bought the RHIB, a trailer and equipment such as a GPS system and satellite phone, all worth over $100,000.
“I find… that Nathan Baggaley knew that a large amount was involved in the importation of cocaine and he was actively ready to receive that shipment and facilitate the transportation of that shipment as a principal,” Judge Lyons said.
She denounced Dru Baggaley for being “a lead organizer of the attempted cocaine importation,” knew there was a large amount of drugs involved, and recruited Draper to take him out to sea.
Judge Lyons found evidence showing that Nathan Baggaley knew about the trip the day before the men went to sea and that “it was to pick up a large amount” of cocaine.
A member of the Queensland Joint Organized Crime Taskforce photographs some of the packages seized from the boat piloted by Draper and accompanied by Dru Baggaley
The cocaine, from an encounter with a South American ship, had an estimated street value of $200 million
Baggaley and partner Clint Robinson (left) take silver at the K2-500m in Athens, 2004
The brothers can only be motivated by greed to commit the ‘very serious crime’, the court was told during the sentences.
Draper — a professional fisherman who testified at the Baggaley brothers’ trial as part of an enterprise — was sentenced to 13 years behind bars after pleading guilty to the same drug importation charge in previous trials.
Nathan Baggaley’s career took off in 2005 – the year after the Athens Olympics – when he was suspended for taking steroids.
The brothers were jailed in 2009 for manufacturing and supplying large quantities of ecstasy tablets, and again in 2015 for making party pills and conspiring to make methamphetamine.
Those verdicts and Dru Baggaley’s time in custody until Tuesday’s court proceedings have seen him spend 11-and-a-half years of the last 14 behind bars.
Descent of a champion
1997: Announces himself as a force in kayaking when he finishes second to Olympic gold medalist Clint Robinson in the K1 1000m race at the Australian Sprint Championships.
1998: Baggaley beats Robinson to become Australian champion in the 1000 meters, ending Robinson’s seven-year title regime.
2000: Baggaley has been selected for the 2000 Sydney Olympics in the K1 500m, but loses to Bulgarian Petar Merkov, a suspected drug cheater.
2001: Cleo Bachelor of the Year finalist.
2002: Wins the first of three consecutive World Championships in the K1 500m race in Seville, Spain.
2004: Won twice silver in the K1 500m and K2 500m (with Clint Robinson) at the Athens Olympics.
2005: Tests positive for steroids, which he blames for drinking from his brother Dru’s bottle of juice.
2006: Suspended for 15 months by the Court of Arbitration and Sport, which accepts his apology.
2007: The suspension was extended to two years as Baggaley prepares for the 2008 Olympics.
2009: Nathan and Dru are jailed for an operation to make pills.
2015: Another two years in prison for multiple drug offences.
2018: Arrested along with brother Dru and boat driver Anthony Draper for his involvement in a plot to import $200 million worth of cocaine into Australia.
2021: Found guilty of his involvement in the plot along with Dru.