Recent Olympic shenanigans evoke memories of an era when sport was just a game, with selectors and arrogant, dictatorial officials running their governing body as a personal fiefdom, partial in dispensing favours and treating athletes as serfs.
UK Sport and home sports councils trumpet how they have professionalised administration and coaching, not to mention athlete services and preparation. Lord knows, they have spent enough – £500m-plus in the past four years alone. Yet recurring selection controversies suggest they need the well-paid spin doctors who keep talking up the system.
Just two Olympic fencers (including Scotland's Richard Kruse) qualified on merit for 2012, but eight more have been granted discretionary "host nation" places.
Amid allegations of subjectivity and conflict of interest, the sport faced four appeals, including one from Edinburgh's Keith Cook, a five-time Commonwealth medallist. Several fencers ranked lower have been chosen. Cook challenged this and was told his omission was because fencing did not have his email address and phone number. Nor did they think he wished to be considered for selection.
How plausible is this, given that he was a GB regular? What does it say about efficiency, governance, and professionalism of sports bodies?
Cook claims British Fencing failed to follow its own selection policy, and a legal challenge remains possible.
However, a successful appeal by Scottish Commonwealth Games silver-medal weightlifter Peter Kirkbride saw justice done. GB record-holder and with six consecutive UK 94-kg titles behind him, he was initially left off the team, prompting allegations of favouritism. The Hurlford lifter had declined to train with the GB squad in Leeds under performance coach Tamas Feher. Three of the Hungarian's athletes were chosen.
This has echoes of the plight of another Cook, taekwondo's Aaron, whose form dipped after coaches demanded he adopt a different style. He opted to go it alone and returned to form – world No.1 no less – but GB Taekwondo selected the lower-ranked Lutalo Muhammad who had trained within their system.
When the British Olympic Association sent GBT home to reconsider Cook, they buried an illuminating statement in an accompanying press release. Their qualification standards panel had refused to endorse two of three nominations submitted by British Wrestling. In agreeing a single "host" nomination, they remarked: "work needs to be done in order to ensure a meaningful post-Games legacy for wrestling, including much greater emphasis on increasing participation . . ."
But more of this later.
The taekwondo selection was booted back and forth. Despite the world federation saying GBT had brought the sport "into disrepute", and the professed "embarrassment" of Olympic Minister Hugh Robertson, the BOA was obliged to accept GBT's nomination. Chief executive Andy Hunt was "not totally comfortable" with a system which gave the governing body so much discretion.
Having spent hundreds of millions, UK Sport should ensure delivery of the optimum team, and clear procedures, but has done neither. Cook has a 2-1 record over Muhammad, and is ranked World No.1 at 80 kilos. Muhammad is 59th. Cook has two European titles to Muhammad's one, and gold in the most recent major event they both contested (Dutch Open) to his rival's bronze.
Now Cook's legal team – as we predicted – is considering an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. And also whether to sue GBT.
Diver Tonia Couch is reviewing options after failure with an appeal. She reached the 2008 Olympic 10-metre platform final, and seemed set for both synchronised and individual events. Yet she was omitted from the latter in favour of the girl who finished third behind her in the trials. .
Liz Blatchford appealed over triathlon exclusion, and may yet go to court. Twentieth in the Olympic rankings, she lost out to Lucy Hall (148th) because selectors believe the latter's swimming ability may help promote the gold-medal hopes of Scots-born Kate Jenkins.
"Third spot on the British team has been given to a young girl, a very good swimmer but at present not a world-class triathlete, and in my opinion not worthy of an Olympic spot," said Blatchford on her website. She believes Jenkins has proven many times that she does not "need any help to win. I really feel that giving Olympic spots to domestiques is a complete and utter waste, and truly unfair to those athletes like myself who have given everything to be the best triathletes they can be."
With careers, and future funding tied to Olympic medal performance, controversies were sure to surface, but athletes are entitled to feel betrayed, and with more than half the GB team to be named, this show will run and run.
UK Sport has already intervened in governance of basketball and boxing, but should also take a look at wrestling. Some £4m spent in eight years has delivered nothing. Britain's only Olympic wrestler is Ukraine-born Olga Butkevych, one of several eastern Europeans imported to help British wrestlers, none of whom made it. The only one successful in obtaining a UK passport, she is now at the heart of the "Plastic Brit" debate.
This column has already exposed how wrestling inflated participation numbers to boost grant aid. Hunt's comment about legacy and "greater emphasis on increasing participation" needs rigorous examination.
So, however, does the way participation is recorded. UK Sport must not continue to be duped. Liz Nicholl, their ceo, has said individual governing bodies "are responsible for all the big decisions". This is disingenuous. UKS is accountable, and must ensure selection is fair, consistent and transparent. It is currently none of these.