Mo Farah’s reputation is unravelling, so let’s stop tiptoeing around and hear the full story of his ties with disgraced Salazar

pCloud Premium

Once hailed as Britain’s greatest ever track and field Olympian, Mo Farah is rapidly losing the benefit of the doubt over his association with disgraced former coach Alberto Salazar.

Farah is feeling the heat after it was reported he issued denials to US anti-doping investigators back in 2015 over his use of a controversial supplement, L-carnitine, only to then reverse his story.

Already in damage limitation mode over his ties to Salazar – who was banned for four years in 2019 over doping violations – Farah is now contemplating the complete unravelling of the legacy he amassed through his four Olympic gold medals and six world titles.

Indeed, after outrunning so many rivals on the track, this is one scandal the 36-year-old is struggling to show a clean pair of heels to. 

The latest claims, outlined in a BBC Panorama investigation, center on an abrupt U-turn Farah made regarding his use of L-carnitine – a performance-enhancing supplement legal in limited doses under the WADA rules – before the London Marathon in 2014.

According to a transcript of an interview with US Anti-Doping Agency officials the following year – as part of their investigations into his then-coach Salazar – Farah initially flat-out denied having been given L-carnitine before the race, but then backtracked.

“You’re absolutely sure that you didn’t have a doctor put a butterfly needle into your arm and inject L-carnitine a few days before the London marathon?” the question was put to Farah.

“No. No chance,” was Farah’s reply.

But after consulting with a UK Athletics official – who had himself already been interviewed by anti-doping officials – Farah then changed his story with the kind of speed usually reserved for when he’s tearing down the home straight.  

“I just wanted to come clear, sorry guys, and I did take it at the time and I thought I didn’t,” he promptly admitted.

Now if alarm bells are ringing, that’s probably because they should be.

What we do know, according to the BBC investigation, is that UK Athletics officials had serious concerns over Farah being given the injection in the first place – even if it was within legal limits. 

“Whilst this process is completely within the WADA code there is a philosophical argument about whether this is within the ‘spirit of the sport,'” one email exchange read in the period before the 2014 London Marathon.

“Although Alberto [Salazar] and Mo [Farah] have expectations about doing this, we are not at a point where we can’t pull out,” it added.

To further muddy the waters, the supplement in the concentrated form which Farah’s team wanted to use was not available in the UK, meaning they turned to a Salazar contact in Switzerland to source it.

On top of that, it has already been revealed that UK Athletics’ then-chief medical officer, Dr Robin Chakraverty, did not record any of this in official records, merely insisting that the amount administered to Farah was well within the allowed 50ml limit.

Farah himself recently said: “I wish at this point I’d never taken it because it never did anything for me. I ran sh*t that day.”

And well he might.

The doubts and denials have now deepened further about Farah’s relationship with the disgraced Salazar – a man whose four-year ban partly came from breaching the rules on administering L-carnitine to other athletes he worked with.

It is also the substance which, after one experiment in 2011, caused such excitement in Salazar that he famously emailed cycling’s doping king, Lance Armstrong, raving about the benefits of infusing it in large amounts.

“Call me ASAP! We have tested it and it’s amazing!” Salazar enthused. 

Farah, it must be pointed out, is not named in any of the USADA accusations against Salazar, and he also insists he was completely unaware of any wrongdoing at Salazar’s infamous Nike Oregon Project, where he trained between 2011 and 2017.

Salazar himself continues to deny any wrongdoing regarding his work with all the athletes he worked with.

But while Farah will resent being mentioned in any kind of conversation involving the likes of Armstrong, his association with Salazar makes that increasingly inevitable. 

Indeed, Farah has been in damage limitation mode ever since the allegations against Salazar broke in 2015.

He finally split with him more than two years later, but has never fully spoken out against the man who coached him to Olympic and world championship glory.

Instead, even the denials from Farah and his team have been distasteful.

Farah fumed in October of last year that any questioning of his good name indicated a racist media agenda against him, only to concede recently that those comments had “come out wrong,” acknowledging that people had a reasonable right to ask questions over his ties with Salazar.

In light of the reports this week, the message from Farah’s lawyers has been just as dismissive, reading: “It is not against [Wada rules] rules to take [L-carnitine] as a supplement within the right quantities. The fact some people might hold views as to whether this is within the ‘spirit’ of the sport is irrelevant.”

Many would question the latter part of that assertion, given the controversial nature of L-carnitine.

It’s also not only about that particular supplement, as concerns have also covered medication that Farah was being given while training with Salazar. Again, he has denied any wrongdoing.  

Step back and look at the bigger picture, and what you will see is another centerpiece of Britain’s glorious sporting summer of 2012 coming under unwanted scrutiny.

The same thing has applied to British cycling and the long-running allegations of wrongdoing by Team Sky in the historic Tour de France triumph of Bradley Wiggins in that same year.

The sheen of that golden summer is fading fast, it would seem.  

But if anything, it could be argued that where certain British stars are concerned, getting to the bottom of any of this has proved far harder than it should be.

Look elsewhere and you will see that Russia, for example, has already been hanged, drawn and quartered over the allegations of doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

No one has stood on ceremony as far as Russian athletes are concerned – the latest example being biathlete Alexander Loginov, who saw Italian police barge into his hotel room in an early-morning raid triggered by doping suspicions based on his coach having the wrong accreditation.

No tiptoeing around there.

Also on ‘They thought my coach supplied me with doping’: Alexander Loginov on shocking police search before relay race

But as the Farah saga drags on, it seems any full and complete picture of his ties with Salazar will be a long and painful process of extraction.    

Given his protestations of innocence, surely Farah himself should be in just as much a hurry as anyone for his relationship with Salazar to be given a full and thorough examination?

You would imagine so.

pCloud Premium

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.