Mo Farah’s blood and medical data will be examined to ensure there is no evidence of doping following the recent allegations against his coach Alberto Salazar, the chairman of UK Athletics, Ed Warner, has confirmed.
Warner also advised Farah, who has resumed training with Salazar after pulling out of Sunday’s Birmingham grand prix because he felt “emotionally and physically drained”, that he should have suspended his relationship with his coach while the allegations of doping made by Panorama had “washed through”.
“What we can look at is all the data surrounding our own athlete, Mo Farah,” said Warner. “Blood data, supplements data – everything surrounding his medical treatment, we’re in charge of that. We run that from the UK, through Neil Black, our performance director, Barry Fudge, who’s our endurance expert. We need to make sure there’s nothing else there we haven’t seen, we’re not aware of, hasn’t been analysed.”
Salazar is preparing to go on the offensive in the coming days against the BBC and ProPublica, the US news website – who published their allegations that Farah’s training partner Galen Rupp has taken the banned anabolic steroid testosterone since he was 16 under Salazar’s supervision – by putting out a rebuttal to some of their charges.
The Guardian also understands that Salazar and Rupp were first contacted by the BBC on 6 May – four weeks before the Panorama documentary came out, with a series of detailed questions. The responses from both men took two weeks to arrive, but came within 80 minutes of each other.
A former Nike Oregon Project coach John Cook, while not accusing any athlete directly, says he fears athletics is losing the war on drugs. “I think it’s pretty obvious that drug testing can be circumvented in pretty much every corner,” Cook said. “The chemists are getting so good that some of the efficacy [of performance-enhancing drugs taken in small doses] can leave [the bloodstream] in less than 90 minutes. So how do you deal with that? Test in the warm-up area? That’s not going to happen.”
Cook, who worked at the Oregon Project between 2003 and 2005, warned that athletics was in danger of becoming a charade. “I follow the sport without particularly much fervour or excitement because I know too much,” he added. “When I was naive, I liked it a lot more. I’ve been turned off pretty much.
“The average fan remains ignorant in terms of it wanting it be Chariots of Fire. They think if [athletes] test negative, they’re as clean as white snow. That’s the great paradox of the whole charade.”
Farah – who is not accused of any wrongdoing – has insisted that he will stand by Salazar, who heads the Oregon Project and has been a consultant for UK Athletics since 2013, unless there is clear evidence that he has committed doping offences. However Warner pointed out that he might suggest to Farah that he should leave Salazar because of the potential damage to his reputation.
“One of the possible outcomes of all of this is, even though – and I’m sure that’s probably going to be the case – there’s nothing untoward proven around Mo and British Athletics, we might still recommend to Mo – and might still decide ourselves – to suspend our relationship because of the reputational damage that could be caused,” said Warner.
Warner also acknowledged he could understand the calls for Farah to distance himself from Salazar, adding: “If I was a personal friend of Mo’s, not the British Athletics chairman, and he was just coming to me for advice, I think I’d have said to him ‘Do you know what, the best thing to do is to suspend the relationship for now, compete on the European circuit this summer, go to the world championship in Beijing, let the allegations against Alberto be washed through by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, (Usada) and see where it leads.’
“However, I completely respect the fact Mo has great loyalty to his coach. And, as the British Athletics chairman, you absolutely can’t make a knee-jerk reaction like that because Salazar is innocent until proven guilty and we need to conduct our own thorough investigation of everything that’s gone on with British Athletics and around Mo Farah in our engagement with Alberto.”
Meanwhile Britain’s 400m world champion Christine Ohurougu has warned of the dangers that the allegations could cause Farah and the sport, even though he has done nothing wrong. “It is really damaging to our sport that this could damage potentially our biggest athletes, the people that draw in all those youngsters to run,” said Ohurougu. “It’s very unfair to destroy their reputation on loads of allegations. We really should wait until all these things have been investigated before people start pointing fingers and making judgments.”
Ohuruogu, who served a drug ban after missing three tests in 2006, said that while she still lived with the slurs on her reputation they do not bother her any more. “There were loads of negative comments that were based on misjudged, misguided evidence or people just making stuff up,” she said. “It does kind of take its toll but you can’t live under that negativity. I decided not to and to make sure that I focussed on my sport and move on from that.”
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