RECENT weeks have been filled with joyous posts on social media from athletes who have had their places in Team GB for the Tokyo Olympics confirmed.

You can hardly blame them for their outpouring of delight; after all, they’ve been forced to wait an extra 12 months on top of the usual four years for their Olympic opportunity.

However, there is the flip-side.

For every athlete selected for Team GB, there will be many more who are devastated after finding out they will be watching the Olympics from their couch rather than being in the heat of battle on the field.

For some, they will have given it their best effort and so while disappointed about missing out, will be content they could have done no more.nHowever, there are others who will find their omission far harder to come to terms with.

Alan Forsyth is most certainly in the latter category.

The 29-year-old is Scotland’s best male hockey player, has been a mainstay of the Scotland team for well over a decade and has been in the GB set-up since 2015.

He narrowly missed out on selection for the Rio Olympics five years ago but he used that snub as a motivator which saw him become arguably the very best player in Britain.

Playing for English Hockey League side Surbiton, Forsyth won the prestigious Players’ Player of The Season in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 and was the English Hockey League’s top goal scorer in those same four seasons.

So while selection for the Tokyo squad, which has room for only 16 players and as a result, is renowned for being a brutally tough process, is never a given for any individual, Forsyth was widely expected to be the first Scottish man selected for the GB Olympic team since 2004.

However, when the squad was announced on Thursday and Forsyth was named merely as a reserve rather than a full member of the side, there was an almost universal feeling of disbelief.

Former Olympians and hockey aficionados from across Britain lined up to express their incredulity about Forsyth’s failure to make the squad, and few were able to conjure up any possible explanation for his omission.

Certainly, selection in team sports is, by its nature, far more subjective than sports in which qualification times must be met – but even allowing for that subjectivity, Forsyth’s exclusion is baffling.

There are no Scots in the GB men’s coaching set-up, which, while this is unlikely to be the overriding factor in Forsyth’s omission, is unlikely to help.

Few are accusing the GB coaches of explicit anti-Scottish bias – men’s head coach, Danny Kerry, after all, selected Scottish women for Olympic teams during his time as women’s head GB coach – but his dual role as England head coach as well as GB head coach is not great optics.

It is hard to believe this doubling-up does not encourage at least some unconscious bias.

There was no official explanation for Forsyth’s omission alongside the team announcement and the Scot himself has, understandably considering his position as reserve, remained tightlipped.

Comparisons have been levelled between Forsyth and Laurence Docherty, the Scot who was left out of the GB team for the 2000 Olympics and who ended up defecting to the Netherlands a few years later.

Docherty himself has said Forsyth absolutely “merited” a place in the GB squad for Tokyo, and is good enough to be in any other Olympic team this summer.

Only time will tell where Forsyth’s career goes from here. He will be 32 at the next Olympics and so while certainly not too old to play international hockey, it would mean another three years of being a part of a system that, for some reason or another, does not favour him.

He has the option to play in Europe, a choice he has put on hold in the hope he would realise his Olympic dream.

There are wider implications of Forsyth’s exclusion though.

There are many young Scottish players, on the male side particularly, who are wondering if they have a path to the Olympics. If Forsyth can’t make it, even with his outstanding record, what Scot can? Should they bother moving to England and dedicating their lives to pursuing Olympic selection having witnessed their compatriot’s plight?

Forsyth’s omission is a crippling blow for him personally. But the even sadder ramification could be the damage done to the attitudes of young players in Scotland.


Earlier this week, American middle-distance runner, Shelby Houlihan, was banned for four years after testing positive for the anabolic steroid, nandrolone.

Houlihan’s defence was that she had eaten a pork burrito the night before which could have been contaminated. This is feasible but her excuse was dismissed and a ban was handed down.

Houlihan, a medal contender for Tokyo, lodged an appeal however, with her appeal still pending, the US athletics governing body, the USATF, allowed her to enter this weekend’s Olympic trials.

By accepting her entry, the American authorities showed how little regard they have for the anti-doping process.

After a significant backlash, the USATF withdrew Houlihan’s invitation for the trials, but the damage has been done.

For a governing body to show such flagrant disregard for the anti-doping process inserts doubt that they actually want to weed out dopers at all.

Houlihan may or may not end up clearing her name but until she, or any other athlete in a similar situation, is cleared, they must not be allowed to compete. Any other stance stains the sport irreparably.