I RARELY disagree with Scotland's ground-breaking endurance icon, Liz McColgan, but take strong issue with her criticism of a World Championship bronze medal being awarded to Joe Pavey 10 years after she was denied it by a drug cheat.

Pavey was fourth in the 10,000 metres at the 2007 World event in Osaka. Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba won from Elvan Abeylegesse – also Ethiopian-born but wearing the colours of Turkey.

Retesting her sample from 2007 revealed Abeylegesse had used a banned steroid, stanozolol. Turkey suspended her 19 months ago, but only now are medals being re-allocated. Emotional and financial consequences are impossible to quantify.

Pavey was philosophical at 41 when, despite having won European 10,000m gold (10 months after having given birth to a second child) and then Commonwealth Games 5000m bronze in 2014, she had her lottery funding cut while aiming for the Rio Olympics.

Undaunted, she became the first British track woman selected for a fifth Olympics last year. She is now preparing for the London Marathon and aims to qualify for the World Championships this year.

One has to question the competence of the original 2007 dope test – stanozolol is hardly state-of-the-art. It's the substance which got Ben Johnson stripped of Olympic 100m gold back in 1988.

Abeylegesse won copious career honours, although the cognoscenti harboured suspicions. Her early results were no more than promising. Running for Ethiopia aged 16, at the 1999 World Junior cross-country in Belfast, she finished ninth – last counting member of their gold-medal team. It was there that Turkey brokered a change of allegiance, and improvement was so meteoric that it begged scrutiny.

From best times in 2000 for 1500m (4:18) and 5000m (16:33) she improved to 4:11 and 15:21 in a year. Yes, she was a developing athlete, but the sudden spike – a marker for illicit activity – might have alerted anti-doping authorities. In 2004 her best times fell to 3:58.28 and 14:24.68 (a world record). She now forfeits 2008 Olympic silver at 5000m and 10,000m and World 10,000m gold in 2007.

The Exeter woman, also fourth to Abeylegesse in the 2006 European Championships won't get that medal as annulment of the Turk's results does not date back that far.

Reallocating medals is a minefield.

Five of the seven men who finished behind banned steroid cheat Ben Johnson, in the Seoul 100m final, were subsequently implicated in drugs. These include Carl Lewis and Linford Christie, promoted to gold and silver respectively.

Johnson has been run close as athetics' greatest pariah by Marion Jones. She was stripped of three Sydney Olympic titles (100, 200, and 4 x 400m) plus bronze in the 4x100m and long jump.

Given that she was in both relays, the whole US squad should have been disqualified and medals redistributed, yet only Jones lost hers. The 100m gold was never re-awarded. The runner-up would normally inherit, but Ekaterini Thanou was alleged to have faked a motorbike crash to evade a drug test. The Olympic movement withheld the medal, so there is no official Sydney Olympic women's 100m champion.

Ethiopian-born athletes filled the 1500m podium in London 2012 – none of them in Ethiopia's colours – and the result of the race has descended into farce.

The winner, Cakir Alptekin, has been stripped of gold and banned for eight years. The runner-up, Gamze Bulut, can't be promoted. She was provisionally suspended last month after the discovery of blood-sample abnormalities from 2011-13.

Third-placed Maryam Jamal switched allegiance to Bahrain, and the following year clocked 3:56.18 for 1500m, slashing more than 11 seconds from her best. She is gold medallist in waiting – one of just three runners in the top nine free of a doping conviction. One more caught out retrospectively would promote England's tenth-placed Lisa Dobriskey to bronze!

Double World 1500m champion Tatyana Tomashova (fourth) has already already served a ban, so on the Thanou precedent, there's a case not to up-grade her. Ethiopia-born Swede Abeba Aregawi, fifth, was suspended last week pending investigation of a positive test. The seventh and ninth-placed runners are also banned by the IAAF for biological passport abnormalities

If the case against Aregawi (World champion indoors and out, and European indoor champion) is upheld, Britons Laura Weightman and Hannah England would be medal beneficiaries.

McColgan, who almost certainly was a victim of dope cheats during her career, yesterday tweeted: "I don't like upgrading athletes to medals they haven't won they should make that medal void what bout drug users 20 years ago no upgrade then."

An understandable sentiment. McColgan was second in the inaugural Olympic 10,000m behind Olga Bondarenko. The Russian sat in the Scot's slipstream before delivering a lethal 30.9sec for the final 200m. McColgan had to accept silver.

A total of 31 women's medals in Seoul went to Soviet/Russian and East German athletes whose national integrity has subsequently been discredited. At least six of these were won by subsequent proven dopers. The five-foot Bondarenko never tested positive, but Tatyana Dorovskikh, who won 3000m gold ahead of Yvonne Murray, later served a suspension. Despite a spirited campaign by Yvonne's husband, Tom Mooney, the Motherwell woman has yet to be upgraded.

McColgan has said that even if second to a dope cheat, she did not win gold. She also feels uneasy condemning victims of state-sponsored doping. "Did they know they were doing it back then? In a regime where there wasn't a lot of choice for what they did to be successful in sport?"

However, I believe that any athlete exposed as a drug cheat – no matter how long after – should be stripped of all career medals. And every result in every event they contested should be air-brushed from history, as if they never existed.

McColgan would accept retrospective action which erases achievements without any upgrading. I think our iron woman is going soft on cheats. If anti-doping authorities, the IAAF, and IOC, want to demonstrate they are serious about the problem, they would expunge all cheats' marks and redistribute all medals.

The IAAF president, Lord Coe, could use the massive IAAF performance database and soon devise a programme which would identify athletes worthy of investigation when performances demonstrate a tell-tale spike. Injury or illness apart, honest progression is a relatively straight line between entry level and personal best.

If it smells corrupt, it probably is.