Mo Farah’s coach, Alberto Salazar, has told the Guardian he is increasingly confident the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s investigation into him will find no evidence of any wrongdoing and insisted the two-time Olympic champion would be staying with his Nike Oregon Project training group despite recent rumours to the contrary.
Salazar has bitten his tongue since Usada began interviewing his athletes, including Farah, in June. Instead he preferred to focus on getting his stable of Olympic and world medallists – who include Farah, Galen Rupp, Matthew Centrowitz and Shannon Rowbury – battle-ready for this week’s world championships.
Speaking in Beijing, Salazar said: “You should put your money on me being cleared – it’s a winning bet. Everything I wrote in my statement back in June will be shown to be correct.”
In that 11,750-word statement Salazar rejected all allegations by the BBC and the US news website ProPublica that he violated a series of anti-doping rules, which included claims that he gave Rupp testosterone when he was 16, and said the accusations had left “innocent athletes’ careers tarnished with nothing but innuendo, hearsay and rumour”. Rupp has insisted he is “dedicated to clean sport” and said the “allegations were not true”.
Neither the BBC nor ProPublica made any allegations against Farah and there is no suggestion of any wrongdoing on his part but Britain’s most successful athlete ever has been caught in the crossfire. It meant that in the two months before the world championships Farah trained in Font Romeu, in the French Pyreenes, under the supervision of the British head of endurance, Barry Fudge, rather than Salazar’s watchful eye.
According to Salazar, though, things will return to normal when Farah returns to Oregon to begin winter training in October. “Nothing has changed with Mo, and nothing will,” he said. “Mo will be back with us.”
Salazar also said that he had been the mastermind behind Farah’s sensational gold-medal winning 10,000m display in Beijing on Saturday, writing him workouts in the run-up to the championships that were administered by Fudge. “Mo’s last major session involved running a mile at altitude in 3min 55sec, and then running intervals of 1,200m, 1,000m, 800m, 600m and 400m, a workout I devised for him and emailed to British Athletics,” he said. “His final 400m was run in 51 seconds.”
So good was Farah’s performance in the 10,000m final, when he ran away from two worthy Kenyans on the home straight, that it only confirmed Salazar’s impression that the Briton deserves to be ranked at least as highly as such distance legends as Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele. “Mo was exceptional and with those six Olympic and world medals I really think he has a case to be the best middle-distance runner of all time now,” said Salazar.
Perhaps the lack of an outdoor world record counts against Farah in the all-time rankings but his medal haul seems certain to rise again when he races in the 5,000m final on Friday. He has also shown his huge versatility this season, running the 1500m in 3min 28.49sec – the fourth fastest time in the world this year – and a half marathon in 59min 32sec – the third fastest in the world.
Farah, meanwhile, admitted that he had sympathy for Salazar, saying it had been “hard” for his coach. Farah also revealed he had kept his own focus during a turbulent period of his life by concentrating on training. “There are certain things in life that you don’t control,” he said. “But I am in control of my training and my running. So, as long as I am enjoying it and doing the right thing, that’s all that matters.”
Farah believes Salazar’s latest batch of workouts have made him better than ever and he sounded an ominous warning to his 5,000m rivals. “Training has been going really well and I am in the best shape I have been for the whole of my career,” he said. The bookies have him at short odds on to double up again.
But, for all Farah’s staggering unbeaten streak at major championships, which stretches back to the 5,000m in Daegu in 2011, he says he has lost none of his thirst for gold medals – or his love for the simple act of putting one foot ahead of another. “That’s what drives me,” he said. “I enjoy running, I enjoy what I do and, when you enjoy something so much, and it’s just like a hobby, you just want to continue that and keep going.”
Farah is now 32 and knows he cannot go on for ever but he denied that he was being driven by a fear of his career coming to an abrupt end. “Not at all,” he said. “Everything comes to an end, everything that goes up must come back down. It’s reality. At some time in my career, when I get older, I won’t be able to do what I am doing. So I’m going to continue looking after my body and ticking every box.”
Farah also joked that he had heard his Kenyan rivals talking about him after he had left them in his wake during the 10,000m final. “One of them said, ‘You tried to kill him’ but the other said, ‘Ah, no, we can’t kill this guy’.”
That anecdote brought a smile but, when Farah was also asked whether he thought the public took him for granted, he became serious. “I don’t know,” he said. “It’s not easy. I don’t blame people. They don’t see what it takes. I wish sometimes people were there to see you at training, when you are on the floor when you have done back-to-back runs or at high altitude.”
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