CHEATS never prosper? Tell that to the opponents of Sun Yang and Dillian Whyte this week. While those who organise elite sport continue to make loud noises about a zero-tolerance approach to drug cheats, their actions tell a very different story.

At the world swimming championships in South Korea, the frankly shameful actions of FINA, the sport’s governing body, served as another example of why elite swimmers have been so keen to break away and run the sport themselves.

Sun, an Olympic champion over three distances, was allowed to compete despite having a previous ban on his record for the use of a banned substance and, more pertinently, another case pending in the autumn that, if upheld, would see him banned for life.

The Chinese swimmer refused to provide a urine sample at an out-of-competition test last autumn while his bodyguard then took a hammer to a vial containing Sun’s blood.

Sun and his team claimed the testers had failed to comply with stringent standards by not arriving with proper accreditation and taking photos in breach of an athlete’s right to privacy. FINA, unsurprisingly given Sun is one of their biggest stars from a country they are keen to make inroads into, agreed but the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) appealed and took the case to the Court for the Arbitration of Sport.

Still, despite the prospect of a life ban hanging over him, FINA saw no reason why Sun shouldn’t compete in Korea where he has gone on to win in both the 200m and 400m freestyle. While the governing body continues to turn a blind eye to their sport’s reputation being tainted, it has been left to Sun’s rivals to show a bit of backbone and decency.

In refusing to take to the podium with Sun, both Mack Horton and our own Duncan Scott drew worldwide attention to an issue that FINA would obviously like to just sweep under the carpet. As Sun bellowed in Scott’s face “you’re a loser, I’m a winner”, FINA jumped in to take immediate action. They sent letters to both Horton and Scott warning them of their conduct.

Sun is a controversial and often confrontational character which makes him an obvious target in the ongoing bid to eliminate drug use from sport. But it should also be noted that one of Horton’s Australian team-mates, Thomas Fraser-Holmes, also competed in Korea – after a one-year ban for missing three tests – with little of the same spotlight or opprobrium. If athletes are going to condemn those with stains on their reputation still competing in their sport, then they really ought to do it across the board.

Swimming is not the only sport with a doping problem, of course. Boxing has not always covered itself in glory on that front too, the latest episode with heavyweight contender Whyte another example.

The former British champion tested positive for a banned substance ahead of his fight with Oscar Rivas last weekend and yet was still allowed to fight. The 31-year-old already has a previous drugs rap on his record when he served a two-year ban for unknowingly taking an illegal supplement in 2012. He returned from that setback to move back through the ranks again, his win over Rivas in theory making him the mandatory challenger to WBC champion Deontay Wilder. Instead, should a second doping violation be confirmed, Whyte will be looking at an eight-year ban.

Both he and his promoter Eddie Hearn insist there has been no wrong-doing. Hearn claims his fighter was cleared by an independent panel to fight and has told people “to wait for the facts”.

Whyte was informed before the bout that he had failed the test but was still allowed to step in to the ring. Neither Rivas nor the WBC – who sanctioned the eliminator – were made aware.

At the time of writing, the nature of the substance remains unknown and perhaps there will be some explanation given in due course on how a heavyweight fighter can fail a doping control test and still be allowed to fight, having received the green light from his promoter, the governing body and the UK anti-doping agency.

That has prompted anger among many fellow boxers, coming as it does in the same week when two of their own – Maxim Dadashev and Hugo Santillan – have died from injuries sustained in the ring.

Scott Allan, the Scottish bantamweight, was typically outspoken on Twitter. “Boxers on performance & enhancements [sic] should be jailed for attempted murder. [They] are taking another man’s life into their hands, let alone their own health. All that for a slight edge. If you can’t do it naturally, don’t compete.”

The issue of doping in sport is likely to fall increasingly under the spotlight as the countdown to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo begins in earnest. The build-up to the previous Games in Rio was largely overshadowed by the startling revelations of Russia’s extensive state-controlled doping programme, and the IOC and their Japanese hosts will be keeping their fingers crossed they can avoid a similar scandal this time around. It already seems like wishful thinking.

That there will always be athletes willing to dope to gain an advantage is an inescapable reality.

What is even less acceptable, however, are governing bodies and other sporting stakeholders continually willing to look the other way.