WE’RE only a few weeks into the new year and already, there’s a doping scandal for everyone to get their teeth into.

At the end of 2019, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced they were planning on investigating all athletes who had been coached by American running coach, Alberto Salazar, who last year was banned from athletics for four years for doping violations

Sir Craig Reedie, former president of WADA, as his tenure of the anti-doping body came to an end, said of Salazar: “The clear question is did any of the allegations concerning Salazar and his operations result in athletes cheating themselves, which might have influenced their performance and might have involved the winning of competitions.”

It is a legitimate question, and as Mo Farah was coached by Salazar from 2011 until 2017, it seemed the logical step that the English four-time Olympic champion would be one of those whose samples were investigated.

Nothing controversial there, you would have thought. But before any re-testing of samples took place, UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) stepped in.

Just a few days ago, the chief executive of Britain’s anti-doping authority, Nicole Sapstead, said she will fight any attempt by WADA to seize its stock of Mo Farah’s blood and urine samples.

She would, added Sapstead, block the release of the samples stored by UKAD for future re-testing unless there was “credible evidence” to suggest they contained banned substances.

This is a clear example of some in Britain thinking there is one rule for them and another for everyone else. If the head of the Chinese or Russian anti-doping bodies had made a similar statements there would, quite rightly, be an outcry.

There is a feeling by a significant proportion of this involved in British sport though that doping is a something done by athletes in other countries, not by our own.

This is, quite clearly, preposterous and the deputy general director of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, Margarita Pakhnotskaya, was quick to hit back at Sapstead’s stance, pointing out that standards are the same for every country.

“I believe that UKAD should not obstruct any transfer of samples,” she said.

“Any opacity on either side, and this is not just about UKAD, creates a wall of mistrust in the country’s anti-doping system and, accordingly, its athletes as part of the system.”

Pakhnotskaya is 100 percent correct. Russia has been hit with severe sanctions, culminating in a four-year ban from hosting, participating in or bidding for international sporting events, so it must be galling to see other countries think they can abide by their own rules rather than the universal laws.

Russia deserved the punishment they got, but what makes UKAD believe they are above the law?

This decision from Sapstead to block WADA’s investigations is absurd because if an athlete’s coach being banned for four years for doping violations is not credible evidence, as she has said she wants before releasing Farah’s samples, what is?

While there is no evidence that Farah is a doping cheat, there has long been suspicion in some quarters that he may not be squeaky clean.

The Englishman released a statement on Tuesday evening saying he was happy for any anti-doping body to re-test his samples and made clear that he had not been involved in UKAD’s decision to block WADA from accessing his samples.

It is hard to gauge what is behind Farah’s statement – on the one hand, he has never failed a drugs test and has always strongly denied breaking any rules so, you would think, he would not be worried about his samples being released.

On the other hand, it is easy to claim you’re happy for your samples to be given to WADA when you know UKAD are not going to hand them over.

If you take Farah at his word, WADA will find nothing illegal in his stored samples. So UKAD are, in fact, doing absolutely nothing to help his cause by obstructing WADA’s investigation. They are, in fact, only serving to increase the suspicion around Farah.

Earlier this week, GB internationalist, Jessica Judd, savaged UKAD, saying athletics is “dying a drug‑fuelled death” and blocking retesting with “stupid excuses [is] embarrassing,”

Sapstead argues that handing over samples will risk degrade the remaining sample but this is a feeble excuse.

Athletics’ reputation as a clean sport has been damaged so badly in recent years, it’s hard to see it ever being fully repaired.

Yes, much of the damage has been done by countries like Russia who operated a systematic, state-sponsored doping programme.

But the only way to begin to rebuild trust in the sport and in the athletes is by everyone agreeing to complete transparency. This includes complying wholeheartedly with investigations by WADA, particularly under the circumstances of the Salazar investigation.

There will be few athletes who believe WADA are behaving unreasonably here.

And so UKAD are doing none of the athletes they are supposedly there to protect any favours by being obstructive. In fact, they are causing significant harm to Farah’s reputation.

If UKAD want to be part of the solution, they must change their stance and start doing all they can to ensure clean sport.