Mo Farah denies breaking anti-doping rules after new claims against Salazar

• Report accused Farah’s coach of giving runners drugs when no medical need
• ‘I am a clean athlete who has never broken the rules’

Britain’s double Olympic champion Sir Mo Farah has again denied that he broke anti-doping rules amid fresh allegations against his coach, Alberto Salazar, that also prompted questions over whether the athlete’s health was put in danger by taking prescription drugs when there was no medical need.

Salazar is alleged to have abused medicines and used prohibited infusions to boost the testosterone levels of his athletes at the Nike Oregon Project, in claims that increase the pressure on the coach, his athletes and the British sporting officials who employed him as a consultant.

But in a statement released hours after the fresh allegations, Farah insisted that he had done nothing wrong.

“It’s deeply frustrating that I’m having to make an announcement on this subject,” he wrote. “I am a clean athlete who has never broken the rules in regards to substances, methods or dosages and it is upsetting that some parts of the media, despite the clear facts, continue to try to associate me with allegations of drug misuse.”

The Sunday Times, which reported the fresh allegations, was leaked a March 2016 draft of a US Anti Doping Agency (Usada) report into Salazar via the Russian hacking group Fancy Bears. UK Athletics was alleged to have ignored warnings from one of their doctors that Farah was receiving potentially harmful treatments from his coach shortly after he moved to the US to join his training group in late 2010.

According to the leaked report, John Rogers revealed under oath to Usada that his conversations with Salazar had led him to write an email outlining his worries to medical colleagues at British Athletics.

Rogers was said to be particularly concerned that Salazar had been making “off-label and unconventional” use of the prescription medications calcitonin, which can help prevent stress fractures, and thyroxine, which can boost testosterone levels, as well as high doses of vitamin D and the iron supplement ferrous sulphate.

The draft report allegedly said Salazar had not been aware at the time that Farah had a medical condition that meant he should not have been prescribed vitamin D or calcitonin in such high doses. Despite being warned by Rogers, a medic who worked with Salazar and Farah at their Font Romeu training camp in France in June 2011, the report said Farah was given calcitonin until November 2011.

In response to the allegations, Farah said: “I’m unclear as to the Sunday Times’s motivations towards me but I do understand that using my name and profile makes the story more interesting but it’s entirely unfair to make assertions when it is clear from their own statements that I have done nothing wrong.

“As I’ve said many times before we all should do everything we can to have a clean sport and it is entirely right that anyone who breaks the rules should be punished. However, this should be done through proper process and if Usada or any other anti-doping body has evidence of wrongdoing they should publish it and take action rather than allow the media to be judge and jury.”

It remains unclear how explicit Rogers’ warnings to UK Athletics were in 2011. While none of the parties involved dispute there was an exchange of emails between Rogers and fellow doctors, what exactly was said is unclear.

It is understood that UK Athletics believed there was no specific warning email that flagged up all of Rogers’ concerns. However, the 329-page draft Usada report leaves little room for doubt that Salazar kept giving Farah calcitonin for four months despite Rogers’ concerns in the buildup to the athletics world champions in Daegu, South Korea, where Farah won a silver medal in the 10,000m and gold in the 5,000m.

There are also questions over Salazar’s use of infusions of the amino acid L-carnitine. It is not a banned substance but infusions of more than 50ml in the space of six hours are prohibited.

Usada believed, according to the leaked report, that the L-carnitine infusions given by intravenous drip to six top American runners training with Salazar “almost certainly” broke anti-doping rules.

In 2015, Salazar was accused by the BBC’s Panorama programme of anti-doping rules violations including giving Farah’s training partner, Galen Rupp, testosterone when he was 16. He strongly rejected all the allegations, and Farah has stuck by him ever since.

Salazar said he had “clearly and repeatedly” denied allegations directed against him and the Oregon Project, insisted he would never permit doping, complied with the anti-doping code and did not use banned supplements. The coach said he was cooperating with Usada. “The leaking of information and the litigation of false allegations in the press is disturbing, desperate and a denial of due process,” he said. “I look forward to this unfair and protracted process reaching the conclusion I know to be true.”

UK Athletics said its key medical staff had fully cooperated with both the UK Anti-Doping Agency and Usada as part of the investigation into the Oregon Project.

How the story grew

How long has Mo Farah worked with Alberto Salazar?

Farah joined Salazar’s training group in 2010 at the age of 28. Shortly afterwards, he won gold and silver at the World Athletics Championships before adding double gold at the London Olympics one year later. Salazar is widely credited with turning Farah into a world beater.

What are the allegations?

In 2015, BBC’s Panorama programme and the US outlet ProPublica made a series of wide ranging allegations against Salazar’s methods. Among other things, it alleged that he administered testosterone and other drugs to his athletes, sent them pills taped inside a paperback thriller and experimented on his own son to see how much testosterone cream would trigger a positive test.

What did Salazar say?

He called for a retraction and apology from the BBC, publishing a point-by-point explanation. Farah has stood by Salazar throughout. But the BBC stood by the programme and Usada launched an investigation – the first draft of which leaked over the weekend.

Are the medicines concerned banned?

Many of the allegations fall into a grey area around what is acceptable or ethical. Wada’s rules differ depending on how much of a substance is taken, how often and how it is administered. That is the case with L-carnitine, one of the substances Salazar is alleged to have abused. The Usada report says Salazar engaged in a “quixotic and dangerous search for better performances in a bottle or a pill” and “sought an advantage ethical coaches did not have and would never obtain”.


Sean Ingle

The GuardianTramp

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