Mo Farah, fighting for his reputation after his coach, Alberto Salazar, became embroiled in doping allegations, has insisted he is “100% clean” and challenged his doubters to prove otherwise.
In an impassioned interview the two-time Olympic champion denied he had ever been told to take testosterone, EPO, thyroid medication or performance enhancing drugs of any kind. He said Salazar deserves the “benefit of the doubt” but said he would definitely leave his coach if the allegations are ever proved. Farah welcomed investigations by Usada and Ukad into the claims against Salazar but said his accusers should talk to the authorities rather than making allegations in the media.
“They need to go to the right people. And I encourage anyone, Kara [Goucher], the rest of the guys, to go to the right people and let’s get to the bottom of this,” he told Sky Sports News from his training camp in the Pyrenees, where he is preparing for a return to the track next week in Lausanne. “It’s killing me, it’s killing my family. There are people there who are the painting the picture of me: ‘Oh, Mo Farah he’s on this.’ I am not anything. Trust me.”
Goucher is one of 19 witnesses who have lined up to testify against Salazar and the Nike Oregon Project since the BBC and the US website ProPublica made the initial allegations.
“I was shocked. I couldn’t believe what I saw. For me when I saw it afterwards I wanted answers so I spoke to Alberto and he gave me answers. I was the first person to say: ‘What’s going on?’”Farah said.
The long-distance runner has since said he was satisfied with Salazar’s 11,700-word rebuttal against allegations that included claims he had given the 2012 Olympic silver medallist Galen Rupp testosterone when he was 16 and that he abused the Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) process.
“I wanted him to come out because these are allegations about him, not me. I wanted him to come out publicly and tell the people,” said Farah.
“I work so hard to do what I do. It’s taken me half of my life to achieve what I have achieved and for people to think I’m taking a short cut is not right. I’m 100% clean. I love what I do and I want to continue to win medals but I want people to know I’ve never taken any drugs.”
But he said if it was proven Salazar had “crossed the line” or manipulated the system he would sever ties with the coach. “Boom! I’m out. Trust me. I work every day hard, I put my body through hell. Every year, seven months of the year, I’m away from my family. Year in, year out. I don’t see my family. I miss my kids. I miss my kids’ birthdays, our anniversary,” he said.
“Those are times I can never go back and share with my kids. And that really kills me. To be labelled something you are not, to have people label me as a cheat, it’s not fair and it’s not right.
“If I am a cheat, prove that I am cheat. Or just leave me alone. Let me do what I do best. And that’s to run, to represent my country and make my country be proud. Seventy-five-thousand people were there in London, cheering for me, shouting out my name. I will never let them down. If people say I am a cheat, I am crossing the line, then prove I’m crossing the line.”
UK Athletics has promised to complete its own review into whether it should retain Salazar as a consultant by early August, while the Usada and UKAD investigations are ongoing.
“These are just allegations. If they are proven and UKAD and Usada find something wrong then I am the first person to run but you have to give people a chance in life,” said Farah. “Someone who has helped so much in your career you have to give them the benefit of the doubt.”
Farah also attempted to explain in detail why he missed two drug tests before London 2012. If he had missed a third within the same 18 month period, he would have missed the Olympics. “I was in Teddington. I was staying in one of the Kenyan’s houses. I was just racing. I was staying at the top floor. And I didn’t hear the buzzer. I was sleeping in my tent. I didn’t hear it. That was the genuine thing. I am not going to lie about it. I know I shouldn’t have done it,” he said.
“There are a lot of athletes who have missed tests and they never seem to come out in public. So why me? Let me tell you this: I have taken 148 tests since 2007, I have taken 103 tests since 2012 Olympics. And every single one of them has been negative. So I can’t win.”
Farah’s agent Ricky Simms subsequently tried to prove that he couldn’t hear UKAD’s doping control officers ringing the bell in a failed attempt to get the missed test struck from the record.
The runner was backed by other athletes after his missed tests were made public, with Steve Cram suggesting he was the victim of a “witch hunt”.
Farah also attempted to explain why his performances had improved markedly once he made the decision in 2011 to train with Salazar in Oregon.
“I have always had the talent. As a youngster I had the talent but I never learned to win big races. It always came down to the last lap,” he said.
“Now I’ve learned how to have more speed at the end of the races. It’s about taking advantage of the facilities and being stronger at the end. Alberto has helped me.”
In a passage of the interview that echoed Lance Armstrong’s admission of drug taking in his interview with Oprah Winfrey, Farah was challenged over whether he had ever taken testosterone, EPO, HGH or any performance enhancing drugs.
“No never,” he insisted, adding that the only medication he took was for the asthma he has had since he was a child.
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