- Mo Farah has spoken out for the first time since Alberto Salazar’s doping charge
- Farah swerved questions and refused to condemn the actions of his mentor
- Instead, Farah spoke of what he believes to be a sinister media ‘agenda’
- Nike shut down their Oregon Project facility immediately after Salazar’s ban
Mo Farah opted to deflect from the main topic of his mentor committing doping offences
Farah spoke of sinister media ‘agendas’ against him and of it being Salazar’s fight, not his
Nike shut down their Oregon Project facility less than two weeks after Alberto Salazar’s ban
Salazar (centre) with Farah (right) and Galen Rupp (left) pictured at the London 2012 Olympics
Sir Mo Farah is still running. He is running away from any notion that he might have played it differently, and quickly towards the idea that it has all been a media conspiracy.
In the function room of a Chicago hotel on Friday, he had a sufficient chance to take a deep breath, to offer a more considered view of the verdict that the mastermind of his success committed doping offences.
He had a chance to put distance between himself and the dark cloud that has followed him for four years.
But no. In his first public appearance since the Alberto Salazar bomb dropped, he deflected and deferred and attacked. He kept to his old narratives, seemingly oblivious to how the ground under his feet has softened in the 11 days since his former coach was banned for four years.
He spoke of ‘allegations’ against Salazar, not the ruling of guilt established in two years of arbitration hearings; he spoke of sinister media ‘agendas’ against him; he spoke of it being Salazar’s fight and not his.
And somehow, he managed to sidestep the point repeatedly, which is that it was perhaps questionable to spend a further two years with Salazar after the BBC’s Panorama shone a light on the practices of the Nike Oregon Project in 2015.
But before all that – before discussing his decisions and before discussing Friday’s closure of the Oregon Project by Nike – he wanted to talk about running in Sunday’s Chicago Marathon. ‘I’m here to race,’ he said, over and again. ‘Let’s just ask five questions about the race before we come back to that.’
He always was ambitious. And on Friday, he was aggressive too, once he got on to the subject.
‘Let’s get on to it,’ he said. ‘To be honest it is very disappointing to see you guys going at it again and again. The headline is Farah, Farah, Farah. There is no allegation against me. I’ve not done anything wrong.
‘Let’s be clear – these allegations are about Alberto Salazar and the Oregon Project. I feel let down by you guys, to be honest.’
But surely, he would feel more let down by Salazar, under whom he spent six years from 2011 and was transformed from a fringe contender into a winner of 10 straight global titles, including four Olympic gold medals? What followed was the first of numerous evasive answers.
‘If I tell you guys or talk to you guys and be nice to you, you’ll still be negative. Either way, I can’t win, you’ve already made up your mind about what you’re going to write.’
Another attempt: Mo, are you disappointed by Salazar, have you been tainted by association?
‘I am disappointed that you guys make it into the headlines,’ he said. ‘It is not about Mo Farah, it is about Alberto Salazar. I am not Alberto and only Alberto can answer that.’
Except Farah can answer.
He can give a view on a coach who was found guilty of trafficking testosterone, of attempting to tamper with the doping control process, and administering a prohibited method of infusion. He can give the view of an athlete who has to live in the shade of a coach’s guilty verdict.
The project was founded in 2001 to aid US long-distance runners.
Some athletes lived in low-oxygen rooms to simulate high-altitude, with underwater and low-gravity treadmills also used.
Farah joined in 2011 and quit in 2017, two years after the BBC alleged doping offences by project head coach Alberto Salazar. Farah won all four of his Olympic golds under Salazar.
On October 1, after a four-year investigation, Salazar was banned by USADA for doping offences. No NOP athlete has ever been banned after a positive drug test.
But he didn’t. The closest he came was in reviewing a conversation in 2015, when Salazar protested his innocence in the face of allegations.
‘I wanted some answers,’ Farah said. ‘I flew to Portland to get some answers with Alberto, talked to him face to face and he assured me at the time these are just allegations, this is not true, there’s no allegation against you Mo, and he promised me. And that hasn’t been true.’
He also said: ‘I’ve said I have no time for anyone who has crossed the line, and from day one I said that.’
That was as far as Farah would go against Salazar. It must be pointed out that despite the US Anti-Doping Agency’s efforts, there was no finding that any of Salazar’s odd practices – including putting testosterone on his sons in an effort to find out how much would trigger a positive test – were done to enhance the athletes’ performance.
But the findings, such as they are, still threw up enough of a cloud that Nike shut the doors of the Oregon Project.
To Farah, though, the issue is more to do with the media. ‘I am probably one of the most tested athletes in the world. I am always posting about it. I get tested all the time and I am happy to be tested any time and anywhere and for my samples to be used for whatever they need to do.
‘Keep it and freeze it, there is not much more I can do. There is a clear agenda to this. I have seen this many times. I have seen it with Raheem Sterling, with Lewis Hamilton. I cannot win whatever I do.’
What more could he do? For a start, he admitted he hadn’t read the full findings of USADA’s report. He also said he was unaware until the guilty finding that Salazar had even been charged and appeared unsure if he was saddened that the Oregon Project, where so much of his development took place, had closed.
‘I have been out of the Oregon Project two years,’ he said. ‘It is not my decision to shut down the Oregon Project, it is a Nike decision. That is Nike, not me, I am Mo Farah.’
Yes, he is. And he is still running.