THERE are few things quite as hypocritical as the reaction of Brits to a story of one of their own being found to be a doper compared to the reaction when a “foreigner” is uncovered as a drug-taker. The contrast is stark.

Last week, it was revealed that CJ Ujah, the British sprinter, will serve a 22-month suspension following his positive test in the summer last year, leading to him and his compatriots losing their Olympic 4x100m silver medals.

His positive test was, he says, as a result of ingesting a contaminated supplement.

The Athletics Integrity Unit and WADA were satisfied that his doping infringement was not intentional but, under WADA’s rules, an athlete is responsible for everything they put in their body hence the ban and loss of medals.

Whether Ujah is telling the truth or not is, in some ways, incidental.

What is more interesting has been the reaction to his offence.

The supplement that resulted in Ujah’s positive test was bought online for a mere £10. He says he had been taking it for weeks prior to the Olympic Games in Tokyo but due to the timeline of his testing, the positive result was not returned until after the Games, and after he and his compatriots had won that relay silver.

The supplement claimed to be uncontaminated and batch tested but Ujah says he was unlucky and got a rogue tub.

It is not inconceivable that all this is true. But imagine, for a second, this was a Kenyan or a Russian or even an American giving this excuse or justification or explanation, whatever you want to call it.

Almost certainly, they would not be met with sympathy.

There seems, in many quarters, to be a belief that Brits just don’t cheat quite as rampantly as athletes from other countries.

Certainly, there is no way a state-sponsored doping regime like the one in Russia would prevail here.

But to suggest individual British athletes have any higher morals than those from any other country is a fallacy.

Elite sport is cut-throat and there will be in Britain, just as there is in every other country in the world, individuals who cross the line as they hunt for success.

There is little suggestion that Ujah was one of those who intentionally cheated and he has, in almost every quarter, been believed. He was granted an in-depth interview with one of the country’s leading newspapers to allow him to tell his side of the story and to express his regret for how it has all panned out.

Would we treat an athlete from any other country quite as sympathetically? I have my doubts.

In the end, elite athletes deserve limited compassion for failing a drugs test. If they were intentionally taking drugs, they are cheats.

And if, like Ujah, it is as a result of a contaminated supplement, they are guilty of extreme “sloppiness”, which was the opinion of Ujah’s relay team-mate Richard Kilty.

Such carelessness is unforgivable at this level.

Ujah has sought to clear his name of being an intentional doper, and in the main, that has been accepted. Maybe we should remember the latitude he has been given next time an overseas athlete comes out with a similar excuse.


There are some necessary decisions taken by sporting governing bodies that attract criticism.

There are other decisions, however, that are such own goals, it is difficult to believe people sat in a room and gave the green light.

British Cycling’s recent move most certainly fits into the latter category.

Last week, they announced an eight-year deal with oil giant Shell. The criticism was immediate and scathing.

British Cycling were, entirely justifiably, accused of greenwashing, which is shorthand for an organisation that is not good for the planet, aligning with an organisation that is good for the planet in an attempt to improve the former’s environmental credentials.

I have never seen a clearer case than this.

Whatever your view of British Cycling as an organisation, it is impossible to dispute that they have been at the helm of a sport that has grown exponentially over the past decade or so and have contributed to many, many more people using their bikes than was the case at the start of this century. In a time when a reduction in car use is imperative, there is little downside to this increase in bike use.

British Cycling said the partnership will bring “wide-ranging support and investment”, while the initiatives include a target for “net-zero” status.

To say the reception this aim got was derisory would be generous. Greenpeace UK policy director Dr Doug Parr said: “The idea of Shell helping British Cycling reach net zero is as absurd as beef farmers advising lettuce farmers on how to go vegan.

“Big Oil are looking at sports as the next frontier for their brazen greenwash. But their aim hasn’t changed – to distract from the inconvenient fact that the fossil fuel industry is making our planet uninhabitable.”

It is hard to disagree with a word of this.

From British Cycling’s point of view, they clearly felt the investment was worth this backlash, which they surely saw coming.

But to suggest that, in the grand scheme of things anyway, a tiny sporting body will change the ways of a billion-dollar fossil fuel industry is pure fantasy.

Perhaps I, and all the other detractors of this deal, will be proved wrong and British Cycling’s involvement will make Shell a greener, cleaner company. What a turn up for the books that would be.

But if we are all proved right, it’s just another sad example of money being more valuable than morals.