Alan Hubbard

It has not taken long for British sport to fall from grace after the golden glories of Rio.

In a matter of a few weeks, the world’s admiration has plunged into opprobrium, cynicism and disbelief.

The assorted scandals have incorporated Big Sam Allardyce’s greedy sting which resulted in his dismissal as England football manager after just 68 days and only one game; a world heavyweight champion who admits he has a screw loose and is now about to lose his titles and his livelihood, and the revelations that an uncomfortable number of our sports stars are suffering from allergies and other medical conditions which conveniently and controversially require the application of treatments banned to others.

Thus we have witnessed a return to that situation military authorities coined some years ago. It is a sporting Snafu - situation normal, all f***** up! 

For Big Sam, read Big Scam. The English Football Association, whose incompetence and lack of judgement seems endemic, have landed themselves in a farce fit for FIFA with revelations of bungs, backhanders and dodgy deals which we always knew existed but have now surely scarred for life what has become the Ugly Game.

The highlighting of a new sporting acronym - TUEs - Therapeutic Use Exemptions - by British athletes, leaked by Russian hackers, has raised the eyebrows of a world that had been left open-mouthed in awe by Britain’s Olympic achievements in Rio.

There is no doubt those Russian hackers were initially hacked off by the exposure, largely in the British media, of Russia’s own abhorrent drugs abuse.

Subsequently Team GB Olympic stars Mo Farah, Sir Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Laura Trott and Alistair Brownlee have been dragged into the controversy after their approved use of drugs, mainly for asthmatic conditions, was revealed.

Former England manager Sam Allardyce suffered a spectacular fall from grace ©Getty Images
Former England manager Sam Allardyce suffered a spectacular fall from grace ©Getty Images

This week it was alleged that Wiggins and Team Sky are being investigated by UK Anti-Doping because of a medical package that was delivered by Sky officials ahead of the 2011 Tour de France.

They are reportedly expected to question Wiggins and team chief Sir Dave Brailsford and his medical team as part of a wide-ranging probe into "an  "allegation of wrongdoing". Which, of course, is vehemently denied.

But suspicion now clouds the Sky.

National icon Wiggins has been under fire since it was revealed that the first Briton to win the Le Tour had applied for a TUE to use a powerful steriod.

Britain’s erstwhile drugs czarina Michele Verroken has said that she believes there has been an abuse of the TUE system and is astonished by the number of athletes who have prescriptions for asthma.

"There is a suspicion that even a treatment for something as simple as asthma is being abused," she said. "I have been absolutely frustrated to be in the presence of coaches who recommended their team go to GPs saying they get out of breath when training.

"And who doesn’t get out of breath as an athlete?

"They will say really labour the fact you have difficulty breathing so they get prescribed an asthma inhaler when they genuinely don’t have asthma."

It certainly does seem that Britain’s holier-than-thou attitude towards drugs abuse is getting up the noses of the Russians, and others, with some justification.

No-one is suggesting such rule-bending is the case with any of the above-mentioned athletes.

Intriguingly I recall a conversation I once had with a medic who told me she was surprised by the number of female athletes who complained of gynecological problems and were prescribed large doses of the birth control pill, a drug said to contain a substance which could possibly mask other illegal stimulants.

Could it be that the use of drugs in sport is deemed akin to the double standards in the world of high finance, where tax evasion is illegal but tax avoidance isn’t? Think about it. 

Whatever the rights or wrong of TUEs, it does seem some awkward questions need to be asked - and answered.

And so to boxing, still riding high in Britain which up to a few weeks ago had 14 recognised world champions. Two, Liam Smith and Anthony Crolla, have since lost but Nathan Cleverley’s reclamation of the light-heavyweight crown last weekend brings the total back up to 13 - more than any other nation.

The certainty is that it will be reduced to the round dozen, again very shortly with WBA and WBO heavyweight champion Tyson Fury set to be relieved of his licence by the British Boxing Board of Control because of his obvious mental instability.

Tyson Fury could be stripped of his world titles ©Getty Images
Tyson Fury could be stripped of his world titles ©Getty Images

It is paramount that no fighter should ever enter the ring unless he is 100 per cent sound both mentally and physically, and clearly Fury isn’t at the moment.

After the latest revelations about failing drugs tests for alleged cocaine use there seems little doubt that the boxing authorities will have no option but to relieve him of his titles and that the return match with Wladimir Klitschko will be put on hold yet again, this time indefinitely.

Fury’s errant behaviour has cost himself, his team and his management and promoters hundreds of thousands. One of his latest outrageous tweets, in which, among other things, he termed boxing "a pile of s***", also confirms that, momentarily at least, he is as he says "off his rocker".

On top of this boxing suffered a rare fatality with the death of Scottish fighter Mike Towell in Glasgow last weekend, re-opening the debate about its place in sporting society.

Yet the ususal abolitionist brigade haven’t been in the usual full cry. It was only the second fatality in the UK in over 20 years, and in this modern age of hybrid combat sports, boxing is recognised as almost certainly the safest.

Also, in these days of high intensity competition there is limb-or-life threatening danger in virtually any sport.

We had the death of an Iranian cyclist in a road race during the recent Paralympic Games and this year’s Isle of Man TT Festival, an event so frequently a carnage of wheels, saw a total of five motorcyclists killed.

Yet it barely merited a passing paragraph.

Perhaps, like sleaze and scandal, we are becoming inured to tragedy in sport.