There was a breezy confidence to Mo Farah on Friday as he insisted 2016 would mark a fresh start for him and his troubled sport. A few minutes earlier he had flicked through a newspaper story about senior figures at the IAAF being banned for life, and his coach, Alberto Salazar, is still under investigation by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.
But Farah, who starts his season at the Great Edinburgh XCountry on Saturday afternoon, hopes an Olympic year will bring happier times for athletics – and more treasured gold medals.
“2016 is a big year and is a fresh start,” he said, sounding relaxed and smiling. “And I just want to be able to do what I do.”
Farah denied there was still a cloud hanging over him because of the Usada investigation into Salazar. “I understand the question but that’s done as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “We’ve moved on and I’ve answered every question.”
Farah is back training with the Nike Oregon Project, having spent last summer in Font-Romeu in the south of France with British Athletics’ head of endurance, Barry Fudge, but he continues to insist that he will leave Salazar if it is shown that Salazar violated any doping rules. “I’m getting bored of this,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “It’s the same thing as I’ve always said. If anything were proven, I’m the first one out. But other than that, I’ll just continue to work hard and keep grafting.”
His mood was upbeat, with little of the wariness that marked his skirmishes with the British press last summer, although a PR representative from Freud’s remained close at hand ready to intervene.
Farah was refreshingly open when conceding it had been a bad few months for the sport, given the revelations of widespread doping in Russia and the damning contents of an IAAF ethics committee report into corruption at the senior levels of athletics’ governing body. “It’s not great and I don’t want to see it,” he said. “But it’s good that they are getting life bans. Give them what they deserve.”
Farah also appealed for more rigorous drugs testing in places such as Kenya and Ethiopia. “I wish the same rules that we apply in our country, other countries would apply,” he said. “I want to be able to race against clean athletes. If you are not doing the same thing, then how is that fair?
“I don’t know what happens in other countries, but I know we don’t take stuff. We live by example.”
After Saturday’s race, over eight kilometres of cross-country around Holyrood Park in Edinburgh, Farah will fly to Ethiopia for six weeks to train at altitude and he hopes to set off after a win against a modest field. “Garrett Heath [the US cross-country champion] and a few of the Turkish guys will make it hard,” he said.
Farah will then return to Britain next month to race indoors in Glasgow, but, surprisingly, he has opted to miss the World Indoor Championships near his home in Portland in March. Instead he will compete over 13.1 miles and, disappointingly for organisers of the world half-marathon championships in Cardiff, he hinted that races in the Algarve or New York are more likely targets. “It’s very difficult to make that shout,” he said. “I can’t just go into any race, I’ve got to be ready.
“I don’t mind the pressure but I’m getting on a bit. I’m 33. It takes a lot more out of you than it did when I was 30 or 28. You do a session and you compare it to back then and it takes longer to recover. You have to know your body and know what you can and can’t do.
“My aim is obviously Rio and I want to be at my peak and the Olympics is where it’s at.”
Ominously for his rivals, Farah believes he is in better form now than he was at this stage 12 months ago – when he was about to break the world indoor two-mile record. “I know in my heart what I want to do this year,” he said. “It’s not like I’m putting pressure on myself but I want to go out there and defend my two Olympic titles. I’m excited. I’ve got a good feeling about 2016.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010