STANDING up to bullies when you were younger didn’t always feel like the soundest piece of advice. Bullies, after all, tended to be in that particular line of work due to a physical superiority and a willingness to use it at every opportunity. It’s difficult to feel self-righteous when you are hanging from a hook by the elastic of your underpants.

Still, there is a lot to be said for sticking by your principles and preparing to face the consequences no matter what may arise. Some days that can prove painful, both literally and metaphorically. But at other times the stance becomes wholly vindicated as the bully gets their deserved comeuppance.

There is a decent chance the Scottish swimmer Duncan Scott wasn’t feeling quite as brave as he looked during last year’s world championships when he chose to make his feelings known about the decision to allow Chinese athlete Sun Yang to compete despite a pending doping case hanging over him.

When Sun then took gold and Scott bronze in the 200m freestyle the Scot decided it was the right moment to take a stance for the greater good. Scott may be an ordinary peely-faced guy from Alloa but he became a giant that night when he refused to shake hands with Sun or get his photo taken with him at the medal ceremony.

Sun, as bullies are wont to do, towered over Scott afterwards, bawling in his face and calling him a loser. The British swimmer showed remarkable restraint not to respond, having clearly made his point. The Korean crowd were evidently of a similar mind, booing Sun off the stage.

It was hard not to think of Scott and smile when word filtered through on Friday that Sun had received an eight-year ban for smashing vials of his blood when testers came to his home in September 2018.

The Chinese swimmer has six Olympic medals – three gold – from London 2012 and Rio 2016 but won’t be in Tokyo this year or Paris in 2024 to add to that haul. Who’s the loser now?

Scott’s actions – and those of the Australian Mack Horton who made a similar protest – may not have directly led to the ban. But there is little doubt that elite athletes taking a high-profile stance like this does make a huge difference when it comes to shining a light on perceived injustices, both in sport and life in general. You only need to look at the impact of Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ black-fisted salutes at the 1968 Olympics as compelling evidence for that.

Athletes, though, shouldn’t be put in this position at all. They have enough to contend with as they vie for medals or strive for sporting excellence. But sometimes, as was the case with Scott and Horton, they are propelled towards such gestures due to the weakness of the people meant to be looking out for their welfare.

This whole episode has not shown FINA, world swimming’s governing body, in a particularly positive light. To be more blunt about it - they are an absolute disgrace.

It was FINA who allowed Sun to participate in the world championships and were then happy to clear him of any wrongdoing despite evidence that he had tampered with a drugs test. And this from a man who had previously been banned for testing positive to a banned stimulant.

Only when the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) – who have not always covered themselves in glory, especially on the subject of state-sponsored Russian doping – interjected to take the matter forward to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) was it properly dealt with.

Little wonder that a group of clean, elite swimmers chose to set up an alternative competition - the International Swimming League - in response to FINA’s failure to act in an appropriate fashion. Convicted dopers not welcome.

Governing bodies more concerned with kowtowing to high-profile names like Sun rather than preserving the integrity of their sport are as bad as the miscreant athletes operating under their umbrella.

Little wonder that it often takes direct protest from athletes like Scott to do their job for them.


In a previous column we raised a concern that the stratospheric rise of some of our elite boxers might mean we never see them fight in Scotland again. Mercifully, those fears have so far proved unfounded.

Josh Taylor popped up last week to announce he had a new trainer in Ben Davison and that his first defence as unified super-lightweight champion would be in Glasgow in May.

Taylor still has a desire to fight in the United States and if/when the match-up his made with Jose Ramirez for the chance to become undisputed champion then it will undoubtedly take place in America.

Before then, however, the Tartan Tornado has a mandatory commitment to make against undefeated Thai boxer Apinun Khongsong and he and new promoters Top Rank are happy to take him back to the Hydro.

"I want to fight in America in time but it's good to treat my fans to this homecoming fight," Taylor told IFL TV.

With Kash Farooq also calling on his new promoters Matchroom to put on a big Scottish date in the summer, fight fans ought to be well served for live action this year.