Discussion of Harvey Weinstein’s indiscretions and worse dominated the airwaves on the long drive up the road from Exeter last weekend, but topping the sports headlines was a story that was loosely related.

As appalling as the accusations levelled at the deposed Hollywood mogul may be, there was something at least as distasteful about the nature of the revelation from British Swimming that it has felt forced to apologise to para swimming athletes about the culture to which they were subjected. We are left to wonder just what sort of revolting creatures, in pursuit of para sports medals, subject people who have a variety of disabilities, from learning difficulties to visual impairments, to the sort of bullying that has been described. Almost as bad are those who appear to have failed in their oversight and that must now be seen as going to the very top of the funding chain.

Para-swimming is, after all, by no means alone and as some of Weinstein’s accusers rightly took the opportunity to point out, it is foolish to see his behaviour as something specific to the film industry, rather than recognise that it is simply an extreme example of the abuses which occur anywhere that people have disproportionate power over the prospects of others. That is doubtless why certain types of capitalist thrive in difficult times, as evidenced by the growing gap between the very rich and the rest of us during this time of austerity. The ideal scenario for society’s greediest is that they can take advantage of the dependence, real or imagined, of those who believe they have no choice but to accept ultimatums. The view that many women seem to have formed in the company of Weinstein, that their careers would stall at best and plunge into nothingness if they did not comply with his desires, is merely the most graphic example.

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Nor should that be read as an overtly leftist observation in political terms, because as a youngster learning his trade in the socialist city of Dundee I observed at close quarters that it is not only those who consider themselves to be capitalists who take advantage of the power that is also generated by political dominance. In that context what exacerbates the wrongfulness of these para-swimming issues is that what has happened has happened under a regime that is funded by public money, generated not as a profit making exercise, but in the interests of improving society.

During the summer I discussed this with Ben Rumsby, formerly a sports reporter hereabouts who is now London-based with The Daily Telegraph and has done some fine work examining welfare related concerns that have had to be confronted by no fewer than 11 national governing bodies during or after the Rio and Pyeongchang Olympic/Paralympic cycles. These sports have access to the majority of the UK Sports budget and while the nature of the issues raised may vary in terms of seriousness and scale, my own view is that many of these abuses are driven by the wrong kind of survival of the fittest mentality which has, in turn, been prompted by the funding body’s ‘no compromise’ policy.

Admittedly there are great success stories and it was my great pleasure a couple of years ago to interview Ellie Simmonds, the para swimming gold medal winning machine. The good done by the profile such an engaging personality has gained as a result of her success has been incalculable. How much that is down to the identification of her natural talent and how much to honing it is moot, however and the priority in terms of public money should always be on the former, maximising the spending on providing opportunities for youngsters to participate in the widest possible range of activities.

Thereafter those participating in sports from which they can make a living through prize money and commercial deals should do so if they wish. Such careers are not without their own dangers, but they are quite different to the issues we are repeatedly seeing where full-time professional sportspeople who are dependent on public funding to make a living are being exposed to abuses of power at the hands of those controlling their careers. What we are witnessing is a disturbing by-product of trying to turn sports into something they are not.