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Farah And Salazar, The Definitive Guide

It is 2008, I am at a track in Kenya, sitting high in the stands, watching a training session. Every Tuesday, Kamariny stadium produces one of the most astonishing feats of human movement you are ever likely to see. Over 200 athletes, including several Olympic champions and world record holders, running round at jaw dropping speeds, kicking up red dust into quartz blue sky. Enormous Eucalyptus trees encircle the spectacle, casting dappled shade around the fringes of the ramshackle stadium. The Great Rift Valley yawns timelessly into the distance.

Farah And Salazar, The Definitive Guide 2

The rest of my squad have left for lunch, after another hard session. I stay to watch one athlete; Mo Farah. This is the first time he has come to Kenya. My Kenyan friends have no interest in him, who is he anyway? So he finished 6th at the World Champs, but that number flatters to deceive. There are only 3 Kenyans allowed on the team. In terms of ability, they have dozens of athletes who could medal at the World Champs, such is the strength and depth of this place. You have to come here to believe it, and that is what Mo Farah has done.

Running in single file, with a group of 10 guys, Mo Farah is finishing every rep in 11th. Barely hanging on, shoulders rolling, over-striding, face grimaced, yet, for all his effort, they are gliding away from him. James Kwalia and Moses Masai are there, world class athletes, but some of the others clearly have no sponsors, have never been abroad, their kit is old and tatty, and they are still leaving Mo in their dust. It makes him look a bit silly, in his bright, fresh, expensive gear.

Mo doesn’t need to come here and put himself through this. He is a big fish in the UK. He has no idea anyone is watching. He could easily quit. He sticks in, every rep, and finishes the session, last. I feel proud, proud to be British like him. He makes me a fan that day.

I remember exactly where I was, three years later, when Mo Farah won Silver in the 10,000m in the 2011 World Champs. It was massive. A global medal against the finest Africans. And then he won Gold in the 5000m! The first time a Brit had ever won a World Championships distance race. I was inspired. Someone from London, who spoke like me, watched the same crap on telly, and had suffered through the same cold muddy Cross Country races as a kid. It lifted the whole of British distance running, creating a self belief that is still evident today.

Three months ago, Alberto Salazar, Mo Farah’s long standing coach, was banned from coaching for four years. He was found guilty of three doping infringements. Dr Jeffrey Brown, who worked for Salazar and Nike, was also banned. The Nike Oregon Project, Farah’s training squad, has been shut down. The Nike CEO and the head of UK Athletics announced their resignations shortly after.

This is the biggest drugs bust in the world of sport since Lance Armstrong.

If the coach is busted for drugs, can his star athlete be clean?

I’ve been studying this question for two months, in excess of 120 hours. If you take every piece of press mentioning this issue, there’s a lot missing from each article: they explore a fact or accusation, a whistle-blower detail, then add a defamation safeguard.

Mo Farah strongly denies any wrongdoing and has never failed a drugs test

This is true. But there are a few other truths to mention.

  1. All drug cheats deny any wrongdoing
  2. Drug testing doesn’t work very well and a lot of athletes are doping. At the Daegu World Champs, the scene of Farah’s breakthrough, Harvard and Tubingen Universities conducted an official survey on over a thousand of the competing athletes. 29% admitted to having used a prohibited substance or method in the past year. All the athletes were drug tested at Daegu, 0.5% returned a positive test. See: Doping In Elite Sports BBC  Sports Integrity Initiative

There is no thread linking all the news stories and history together. Until here. I’m not a trained lawyer or investigative journalist. All of the sources I’ve interrogated are publicly available. I come from a place of wanting to believe the incredible story of Farah’s meteoric rise to dominance, but I also refuse to be fooled because it’s just easier on the heart.

Farah And Salazar, The Definitive Guide 3

MO FARAH – The Star

Born in Somalia, Farah moves to London aged 8. Learns English by watching Power Rangers. Football lover and Arsenal fan, shows talent for running at 11 years old. Wins a lot of domestic races (but not all of them), gets a grant from National Lottery after leaving school, becomes a full-time athlete, Paula Radcliffe pays for his driving lessons. Trains under Alan Storey (coach of several Olympic medallists). Achieves little success at global championships, knocked out in the rounds of 2008 Olympics. In 2010 he wins European Gold in 5000m and 10,000m, but against a field nowhere near the world’s best. He later sets a British record of 12.57 for 5000m, a very good time, but only the 21st fastest of the year, with the World Record standing at 20 seconds faster.

In 2011, age 27, UK Athletics persuade Salazar to accept Farah into the Nike Oregon Project. He becomes a world beater within a year. Reigns supreme over global championships during his 7 years with Salazar, 12 global medals. Famous for the Mobot and a ferocious final 500m. The most successful distance runner in Britain, maybe the world. The only athlete ever to achieve the ‘Quadruple Double’ by defending his 5000m and 10,000m titles at World Champs and Olympics.

The first reason there is any suspicion around Farah, is his late, sudden, surge to the top. To transform from ‘also ran’ to the best in the world, at age 27, then continue to dominate for the next seven years, becoming the most successful British athlete of all time, is completely unprecedented. His range of ability also raises eyebrows. Farah is the British record holder in every distance from 1500m to the marathon. To be so accomplished at such a variety of events is almost unique.

All the distance runners who could challenge Farah for the title of ‘the Greatest’, showed enormous promise from an early age. Bekele, Kipchoge, Gebreselassie; they were all World Junior Champions with prodigious talent, who maintained a more predictable trajectory to greatness. Farah was nowhere near as promising as a junior, or a senior. No one was realistically predicting he would go on to achieve what he did.

Farah And Salazar, The Definitive Guide 4

In 2011, when Farah made his breakthrough, he had already been training as a professional athlete for ten years, under a very accomplished coach (with more success and experience than Salazar, at that point). Suddenly, almost overnight, he becomes World Champion.

That this transformation should happen the year Farah leaves the UK to join the Salazar Nike Oregon Project, is no coincidence. The more cynical observers are suspicious of what is going on behind closed doors. From as early as 2013, stories are coming out; about a shady Doctor working for Nike, who is prescribing thyroid drugs to athletes with no thyroid problems Wall Street Journal , or the “Super Supplement”, L-Carnitine, that can enhance performance by 11%. Sunday Times

Farah And Salazar, The Definitive Guide 5

At this point in time, I prefer to believe the official line; Farah is benefiting from Nike Oregon Project’s state of the art technology and all the latest training principles. Farah was a ‘sleeper’, a great talent just waiting to be woken up. And his revolutionary coach, Salazar, is doing the waking;

Farah And Salazar, The Definitive Guide 6

ALBERTO SALAZAR – The Coach

Cuban born, famous runner in the Eighties, representing USA in the 1984 Olympics. Winner of Boston and New York Marathons. Ugly runner, but brave and tough. Once collapsed after finishing a race and was read his last rites. Later in his career he won the prestigious ultra; Comrades Marathon. After retirement he moved into coaching, was Mary Decker’s coach in 1996, when she was banned for testosterone. Friends with Lance Armstrong before he was busted, paced him to a sub 3hr marathon in 2006. Cut Salazar, and he will bleed Nike. A Nike athlete for 15 years, then a consultant, finallya coach. Has a Nike tattoo, and Nike have a Salazar Building at their Head Quarters. UK Athletics are so impressed with Salazar, they hire him as a consultant in 2013.

I believe that it is currently difficult to be among the top five in the world in any of the distance events without using EPO or human growth hormone. While some of the top athletes may be clean, so many athletes are running so fast that their performances are suspect – I would like to make it clear that I in no way condone doping and am glad I never felt forced to seriously consider doing it but I can definitely understand how a good moral person might feel compelled to do so. That person might not even consider it cheating if they believe all their top competitors are doing it .

by Salazar-1999Duke Uni

In 2016, Salazar admitted to taking testosterone during his running career. USADA report

NIKE OREGON PROJECT – NOP

According to Salazar, it all started when he and Tom Clarke (Nike executive) were chatting in the VIP lounge at Boston Marathon, 2001;

the commentators started gushing about an American taking sixth place,

Salazar recalled with incredulity.

How can American distance runners be so bad that we’re excited about sixth place?

I told Tom that I could coach Americans to do better.

NOP was born.

The mission was to develop American marathon and distance runners—Americans who could win marathons and distance races.

by Oregonsmagazine

With the aim of closing the gap on the East Africans, Nike has spent millions on the project, utilising all the latest technologies; Alter-G and underwater treadmills, cryo chambers, altitude tents, performance apparel and footwear, Nike Sports Medicine Lab, massage therapists, physiologists, nutritionists, a sports psychologist and other professionals.

They find themselves in trouble early on, their altitude tents being compared to cheating, and investigated in 2002.

Their emblem is a black skull. Wikipedia

The BBC Documentary

Farah And Salazar, The Definitive Guide 8

Jump to 2015, Farah is sitting on top of the world, 4 years of domination has seen him become the double Olympic and World Champion. As far as I am concerned, everything is just rosy between me and Mo.

Until the BBC and Propublica release a documentary called ‘Catch Me If You Can’, where 14 eye-witnesses make claims about doping violations inside Nike Oregon Project, heavily involving Salazar and Rupp.

GALEN RUPP – The Training Partner

Showed precocious talent from a young age. Met Salazar at a barbecue, age 14, and from there became the “Project’s project”. Suffers from asthma, allergies and hypothyroidism. Possibly the most successful American distance runner in a generation; 2 Olympic medals and Chicago Marathon champion. Graceful runner, Poor public image, ‘hard to love’ is how one paper put it. Known for wearing a mask, complimented by the black vest with skull. Rarely does interviews, does not engage with social media, aloof and/or elusive in public. Similar to Farah in early preference for ‘soccer’, “they are such good friends. They are like brothers” Salazar 2013 BBC. Together they formed part of NOP’s “inner circle”CSC.

I wanted to start the Oregon Project with the best available professional runners, but ultimately, Galen was going to be the star

by Salazar Autobiography 2012

The BBC reporter, Mark Daly, clearly states that Mo Farah is not implicated by any of the witnesses, however

If the allegations about Salazar are true, then Mo Farah has been coached to world success by a man who has used banned methods.

The claims made by the BBC;

  • Rupp has been doping, under Salazar’s guidance, since an early age
  • Salazar is in possession of testosterone (banned substance, unless with specific medical condition)
  • Salazar has experimented with testosterone in order to cheat drug tests
  • Salazar is complicit in the microdosing* of his athletes (*method of doping where smaller doses of a substance are used at more frequent intervals, in an attempt to avoid detection)

The story makes all the papers. And the question is asked repeatedly – will Farah leave Salazar?

Mo makes an impassioned defence at a press conference;

I’m not leaving Alberto for the reason that I’ve not seen any clear evidence.

I’m really angry at this situation, it’s not fair, it’s not right. I haven’t done anything, but my name is getting dragged through the mud. It’s something that’s not in my control, my reputation is getting ruined. You guys, you’re killing me. What have I done? Yes there’s questions that need answering. If this turns out to be true and Alberto has crossed the line, I’m the first person to leave him

Source  BBC

Farah flies from the UK to Oregon the next day, skipping a race and an appearance fee of around £80,000 Propublica, to confront Salazar and “demand answers”.

His reaction seems plausible on the face of it, however, he knew of these allegations a month before the documentary was released.

According to Farah, he only heard about the claims “maybe three or four days before” the show was broadcast. However, the BBC had contacted him a month earlier, in line with their ‘right to reply’ policy. They informed Farah about the accusations against Salazar and Rupp, and outlined the upcoming documentary. Guardian

Farah’s official response is actually included in the documentary.

Why didn’t he go immediately to “demand answers”? An athlete who is already under suspicion, due to the late nature of his rise to the top, who undoubtedly trains incredibly hard, and now has his reputation questioned.

Farah must have known this documentary was going to cause shock waves in the sporting world. He is a national hero, champion of London Olympics, a celebrity household name. This is the BBC, not Channel 5, people are going to watch it.

If Farah had gone to Salazar discreetly, when he first received the email from the BBC, he could have been in a much stronger position later;

He could have said: Relax guys, I’ve heard all these allegations, I’ve gone to Salazar already, he has proven to me that this is all nonsense, please await his official response, which will be issued shortly. In the meantime, I invite any questions on my race tomorrow.

But Mo didn’t fly out a month earlier. He waited until he was pushed.

Farah remains in the USA for a day or two, before flying to a training camp in France. From there, he conducts an interview with Sky, outlining his meeting with Salazar;

I went and saw him, to confront him, to say: ‘What is going on Alberto? Look, you need to assure me.’

He said: ‘Mo, I’m working on this, I will come out and prove that these are just allegations…Wait until it comes out. And it will come out.’

I was like: ‘Are you sure?’

He said: ‘Yes.’ That is when I just left it.

For me, I wanted to just continue running.

Source Guardian

On the basis of this interview, It doesn’t sound like Salazar has produced any answers at all. And Farah has not been particularly shrewd and demanding.

It is not that easy to dismiss 14 credible eye witnesses, who have made separate accusations, which are consistent and corroborative, over a period of eight years. There is no ulterior motive for any of the witnesses, many of them believe their lives have become significantly worse for revealing their stories. Danny Mackay says the stress and panic attacks led to the breakup of his marriage. He was issued face-to-face death threats by Nike Director of Athletics, John Capriotti;

You know what you f####n’ did, I’m gonna f####n’ kill you

Source police report

Salazar’s Open Letter

Three weeks after the documentary is released, Salazar issues his 2-part public response part1 part2. He addresses each of the accusations made. His arguments are not altogether convincing.

If I take one particular example:

Claim:

Salazar tested Androgel (testosterone gel) on his sons, in an attempt to see how much could be used before triggering a positive test.

The witness is Steve Magness, an upstanding coach with a completely clean record. He walked away from his coaching position in NOP, a role he had described as his ‘dream job’, due to the doping violations he witnessed.

He claims Salazar’s son explained the experiment to him personally.

Salazar’s response:

I was a bit naive and let my paranoia get the best of me here but there was never intent to do anything illegal…the focus of this experiment was to determine whether or not an athlete could be sabotaged by someone rubbing testosterone gel on the athlete.

Salazar says he was paranoid about someone sabotaging one of his athletes, by rubbing gel on them just before they are tested, therefore triggering a positive test.

Firstly, this is an incredibly unlikely scenario. If he’s so paranoid, he must be able to see how suspicious this looks. The much more plausible reason for the experiment, is to find out how to cheat the test.

Secondly, Salazar could have easily avoided such suspicions, by requesting permission from USADA before attempting these experiments. He failed to do that.

UNITED STATES ANTI-DOPING AUTHORITY (USADA)

USADA was set up in 2000 with the mission statement “to fight doping through drug testing, research and education.” An independent, non-profit organisation, the CEO, Travis Tygart, took down Lance Armstrong in 2012, and has followed suit with the ban imposed on Alberto Salazar.

Victor Conte, (who served time in prison for providing 30 athletes, including Dwain Chambers and Marion Jones, with steroids) had this to say about Salazar’s testosterone experiments;

It’s exactly what I did. It was diagnostic. It was pre-testing. Why did I do that? Because I was trying to circumvent the testing? Why else would you do it?

Source JapanTimes

Salazar attempts to discredit Magness’ character with deeply personal and unprofessional comments. His 12,000 word rebuttal is difficult to read. Salazar repeats himself often, with grammatical and spelling errors. He contests some claims that were never made, and sporadically interjects with lengthy timelines and digressions. It comes across more as an angry rant than an evidence-based, formal defence.

Is this open letter the same evidence Salazar gave to Farah? This? Against the 14 independent eye witnesses who are still standing by their story, whilst being subjected to death threats for whistle-blowing? So Farah is buying the extremely unlikely testosterone story?

I wonder if Farah suggested that perhaps Salazar could be a little more careful next time, when experimenting with banned drugs, as the repercussions are affecting everyone’s reputations and careers.

Farah And Salazar, The Definitive Guide 10

Salazar demands that the BBC and ProPublica “publish a retraction of their false statements”.

The BBC and ProPublica decline. Instead, they counter that since the documentary, more witnesses have stepped forward, with further claims being made Propublica.

UK Athletics launch their own, rather toothless, investigation into their relationship with Salazar. They have no remit to consider any doping violations, and they find “no reason to be concerned”. Salazar maintains his role with UKA AthleticsWeekly Telegraph .

Incidentally, after being taken to court by Adidas for breach of contract, UKA have recently agreed a new contract with Nike worth £15 million, twice what Adidas were paying MarketingWeek.

Farah re-iterates that he will be staying with Salazar, due to the “evidence he has provided”.

Farah And Salazar, The Definitive Guide 11

I think Farah should certainly have split with Salazar at this point. Salazar’s “evidence” is by no means robust. Regardless of whether Farah had been complicit or not, there is just too much doubt around Salazar and NOP now.  An athlete’s reputation is everything. If clean, Farah would be well within his rights to walk away. The fact that he doesn’t, raises a suspicion of guilt and/ or mens rea.

Two Missed Tests

The BBC investigation proves to be a watershed moment for Farah. Soon after the documentary, it is discovered that Farah has missed two drug tests within an 18 month period, where one more would have resulted in a ban. The second test occurred after Farah had joined Salazar. Farah appealed the case, claiming he couldn’t hear the doorbell, as he was sleeping upstairs inside an altitude tent. The tester would have been required to stay at the premises and ring the doorbell for a period of one hour. DailyMail

The doorbell excuse is hard to swallow. As someone who is so committed to clean athletics, you would think Farah would make sure his doorbell could be heard by someone ringing on it for an hour, especially since he had already missed a test within the time-frame. To put this into some perspective, Allyson Felix, the most successful athlete of all time, has missed one test in her entire career, whilst sitting a college exam. Kara Goucher, ex-NOP athlete and whistle-blower, never missed a test in her 13 year career CSC.

It is at this point that Farah employs the PR agency, Freuds, “experts in crisis management”, to manage the escalating situation, and begin rebuilding his reputation. They start handling his media engagements Guardian.

Farah’s response to the two missed tests;

I have fully explained the only two tests in my career that I have ever missed, which the authorities understood, and there was never any suggestion that these were anything more than simple mistakes… the media pressure on my young family and my wife, who is five months pregnant, is extremely painful

Source Guardian

The tactics employed by Freuds in this statement, are analysed by PR Week;

The statement cleverly attempted to re-position the story to focus on the human cost of the rumour treadmill.

Source PRWeek

2015 World Champs – Beijing

Farah wins double Gold at a World Championships for the third time, an unprecedented “Triple Double”

 Coach, With Ties To Farah, is Found with EPO

In 2016, after a small period of calm, it appears that Farah’s official line is to assume the case is closed; “Everything has been done, there was nothing, and they haven’t found nothing” express

Suspicions stir up again quickly after international coach, Jama Aden, is arrested in Sabadell, Spain. In a raid at his hotel, police discover EPO, anabolic steroids, 23 preloaded vials, and 62 used syringes.El Pais

Farah And Salazar, The Definitive Guide 12

JAMA ADEN – The Shady Coach

Former Olympic athlete, represented Somalia in the eighties. Recruited to the USA on an athletics scholarship, where he earned a Masters degree in exercise physiology. Became a very successful coach, with several Olympic medallists and World Record Holders to his name. Two of his athletes have been banned for doping. After a police raid at his hotel room, where performance enhancing drugs were found, Aden is currently wanted in Spain for criminal offences. Believed to be hiding in Qatar.

There are numerous sources that associate Farah with Aden. However, Farah and his agents firmly deny any relationship.

Jama Aden has never trained Mo

Spokesperson for Farah BBC

Jama has nothing to do with Mo as an athlete or his training. But occasionally they are in the same place at a track for a training session

Spokesperson for Farah Guardian

All Aden did last year, for a very short period of time, was to hold a stop watch and shout out times to athletes as they completed their track sessions

UK Athletics Independent

Aden’s daughter tweets;

“Mo Farah and my dad are very close friends, lol. They train together sometimes”.

An official document is discovered, listing athletes using the track in Sabadell (Aden’s base, where the raid took place). Farah is named as one of the athletes, and Aden as the coach ElConfidential . Farah posted pictures on Facebook of him training there. When Farah’s agent was asked about this, he said “I am not aware of Mo ever training there” Letsrun.

In 2015, Farah had been photographed training and hanging out with Aden’s athlete Hamza Driouch, who received a ban for doping. When Driouch is approached for comment on this issue, he responds; “Go to hell. First of all, f##k you and all your shitty questions.” Telegraph

Aden is a Nike coach, like Salazar, and has corresponded with Salazar regarding training sessions.

Farah And Salazar, The Definitive Guide 19

Aden (left) with Nike Director of Athletics, John “I’m gonna f####n kill you” Capriotti, wearing black

In a press conference at the Rio Olympics, it is put to Farah to explain the numerous photos of him together with Aden, in various places. Farah says;

There are so many people on the circuit, so if people come up and ask for a picture, are you going to say no? I have no association with him.

Source Irish Times

Farah is asked about a statement made by an NOP insider, who says Aden claimed Farah was a “close friend” Times ;

He’s not a friend of mine. You see people on the circuit, you see coaches, and that’s all it is. I don’t know why you’re making a big deal out of it.

Source Irish Times

These responses, from Farah and his people, are totally inadequate. To try and paint Aden as some random guy you don’t know, who just wants the odd selfie, there is too much evidence to the contrary. You wrote about him in your own book;

I would join in on the odd session with guys coached by Jama Aden…Like me, Jama was born in Somalia and we had known each other for years

by Farah, Twin Ambitions-2013

EPO is a banned, performance enhancing, substance that was made infamous by the Tour de France cyclists.

After Nike athlete, and seven time Tour champion, Lance Armstrong was busted for EPO, even Nike would have realised their reputation was in jeopardy. There is no way Nike or Salazar could have allowed Nike Oregon Project to be associated with EPO. After years of investigating the project, USADA have never found any evidence linking Salazar with EPO.

The witnesses involved in the Armstrong saga provided a detailed account of how EPO is taken at professional level. To gain the upmost benefits, it must be used with regularity and precision.

Farah, a world class athlete training in a world class program, would sporadically train with Aden’s squad, while at altitude or warm weather camps. Any use of EPO would have been similarly sporadic, risky and much less-effective than the systematic method employed by Armstrong.

I don’t think Farah was using EPO. The problem is not so much Farah’s association with Aden, but Farah refusing to admit this association. He clearly knew Aden for years, and had trained with him on numerous occasions.

He could have said: Yes, I knew him, I had no idea about the use of EPO, and I will never associate with him again.

If Farah is not being honest about this, what else is he not being honest about?

Rio Olympics – 2016

Farah defends his 5000m and 10,000m Olympic titles. One of only two athletes to ever achieve this

Leaked Document No.1 -USADA Report

In February, a USADA report is leaked online, by the Russian hackers Fancy Bears. The document, an investigation into Salazar and NOP, makes very serious claims. USADAreport

Issues concerning Nike Oregon Project (NOP)

NOP are unwilling to assist in the investigation. The athletes refuse to share medical data. Nike, Salazar and Dr Brown attempt to delay or obstruct proceedings

Why is this? If they are clean, they should be welcoming USADA with open arms. Surely it is in their interest to comply fully, and get the process resolved quickly, so their reputations can be restored.

According to the report, the NOP athletes are also specifically instructed never to discuss their use of substances, blood reports, or anything similar, with anyone, even other members of NOP.

Nearly all the current athletes at NOP, including Farah, have received L-Carnitine infusions, under the guidance of Salazar and Dr Brown

L-Carnitine is a natural substance that is found in foods, it is not banned, but only a limited amount is permitted via infusion (50ml in a six hour period). Most, if not all, of the infusions in question are highly likely to have been above the acceptable limit, and if proven, would lead to a ban. Claims against Farah’s training partner, Rupp, are particularly serious, and the report states he is under a separate investigation. No mention of these infusions has ever been made by Salazar.

Salazar and Dr Jeffery Brown “conspired to collude together” to use banned methods, in order to enhance the performance of NOP athletes

Farah And Salazar, The Definitive Guide 20

Dr Jeffrey Brown, proudly claims to have diagnosed Olympic athletes, including Galen Rupp and Carl Lewis, with hypothyroidism WSJ

Dr Brown has reportedly altered medical records to hide doping violations. He has failed to declare to the NOP athletes a conflict of interest; between his employers, Nike, and the health of the athlete. Salazar has deliberately misled his athletes by informing them there is no need to record their L-Carnitine infusions;

When asked about an Infusion, you are to say no. L’Carnitine and Iron in the way we have it done is classified as an injection. So no TUE’s and no declaration needed, not online and not when asked about infusions when getting drug tested in or out of competition. Thanks

by Salazar email USADAreport

This email is pretty damning. Athletes are required to declare their infusions. Salazar is clearly attempting to hide the L-Carnitine infusions they have received. Why is he doing this if the procedure is above board? It starkly contradicts his earlier statement, which he made in response to the BBC allegati

all Oregon Project athletes are instructed to declare any and all supplements that they are currently taking on their USADA or IAAF Doping Control Official Record forms whenever they are tested.

Source Salazar open letter pt1 

The USADA document uncovers several issues on Farah’s use of supplements/ substances.

Farah and Thyroid

There are numerous reports of NOP athletes misusing thyroid medication. I have found no evidence whatsoever of Farah ever having taken thyroid medication, and have no reason to believe he did so. Evidence for other NOP athletes taking the medication can be found easily across the public domain.

Three Big Doses

Farah had been taking three extremely high doses o­­­f supplements; Calcitonin, Vit D (83 times the recommended daily amount) and Iron ferrous sulphate.

Dr Rogers (UKA doctor) assessed that they could be harmful to Farah, due to his pre-existing medical condition, hypercalciuria, and ordered that he cease taking the supplements.

Worryingly, it appears that Farah ignored the UK doctor’s directive, despite the health risks, as he continued to take Calcitonin after the advice was given.

The Asthma Dose Increase

In an email to UKA doctors, it is revealed that Salazar has increased Farah’s asthma medication, by adding the steroid inhaler, QVAR.

Several NOP athletes confirm that Salazar would encourage them to use inhalers, “in excess of the prescription…in order to enhance performance”. USADAreport

Lauren Fleshman, a Nike athlete, recalled how Salazar coached her to cheat the asthma test, by running laps round a track, and then up flights of stairs, before breathing into a device. She went from no medication, to the highest dose, and Salazar encouraged her to use it year round for performance gains.  Propublica

If Salazar is encouraging his athletes to use asthma medication for performance, rather than health, then this is crossing into a very grey area, where the rules of the sport might not be violated directly, but the ethics are in question.

Farah And Salazar, The Definitive Guide 21

These USADA claims are also in conflict with Salazar’s earlier statement to the British media; “everything that Mo takes is from UK Athletics”. Telegraph

and Farah’s agents’ claims that “British Athletics doctors made this diagnosis and prescription not NOP”. Mail

They also explain the increase in Farah’s medication occurring when he moved to Salazar as a ‘coincidence’. Mail

This next story is verging on the ridiculous:

Farah and the L-Carnitine Injection

From Salazar’s emails, it becomes clear that Farah has had an L-Carnitine injection in 2014, whilst in the UK, under the guidance of Salazar. There is no medical need for this procedure, it is purely for performance benefits.

Dr Chakraverty, who gave the injection before Farah’s debut at London Marathon, claims the dose was a one off, was inside the permitted dosage, but he forgot to make a record of it. His reason being, he was “immensely busy”. HouseofCommons

In a hearing with MPs, the chair asks him;

when it is for Sir Mo Farah in a unique race for him receiving a treatment that you have never administered before, he has never received before, you would think that would be important enough to be recorded, would you not?

Source HouseofCommons

Farah And Salazar, The Definitive Guide 22

Three UK Athletics employees, Fudge, Rogers and Chakraverty, are called to answer questions from an MP select committee, concerning Farah’s use of substances

Good question, but the MP chair does not go far enough. It is even more important than this, because if the dose given was found to be anything over the 50ml limit, both the athlete and the doctor could face a ban of up to four years. Career suicide for both.

I have spoken to several doctors on this, ranging from General Practitioners to heart surgeons, all say that it is extremely unlikely for a doctor to forget to record a dose.

This oversight is even more shocking when you consider that Dr Brown, who carried out the L-Carnitine infusions for five NOP athletes in the USA, also omitted to record the dosage used. USADA claim that this omission must be regarded as either;

  1. The most stunning and improbable of all possible record keeping failures, or
  2. Evidence of an intentional effort to conceal the amount of L-Carnitine used USADAreport

Farah And Salazar, The Definitive Guide 23

I honestly don’t know what to think of all this. On the one hand, I don’t see the motive for Dr Chakraverty here. He wasn’t working with Farah often, he didn’t work with Salazar directly. He was advised by UK Athletics on the size of the dose to administer (13.5ml), this probably was the only time he gave Farah an injection. Why would he risk his career for a one-off dose that may or may not assist Farah’s next race?

But then, why the hell was he so stupid as to not record the injection, when it was clearly so important? This is Mo Farah, reigning Olympic and World Champion. Also, the 13.5ml dose quoted is nowhere near a high enough dose to be effective. Even 50ml is far below what Salazar found to be an effective dose. So why bother with procedure in the first place?

Another Salazar contradiction;

None of our athletes are on any sports-specific supplement other than beta alanine, which is an amino acid. Other than that, it’s iron, vitamin D and that’s it. You don’t really need anything else.

Source  ProPublica 

The problem for me here is integrity. If Farah is willing to have needles put in him for purely performance based purposes, where is the line? What else is he prepared to do?  Why was this procedure not public knowledge? If it were not for the leaked document, would we ever have found out about this? Are there other injections we don’t know about?

Leaked Document No.2 – “Farah – Likely Doping”

Farah And Salazar, The Definitive Guide 24

In July, Fancy Bears leak another document LetsRun, this time from the athletics governing body, IAAF.  There are two lists, the first one labels 18 elite athletes with a status of “Likely doping”. It reads;

Farah Mohamed – Likely doping; Passport suspicious: further data is required -23/11/2015

Farah’s training partner, Rupp, is also on the “Likely Doping” list. The next spreadsheet is dated four months later, and states:

Farah Mohamed – Now flagged as “normal” with the last sample

This is very significant. According to the first report, which is later verified by IAAF Mail, at least one expert, potentially two, considered that Farah was doping in 2015.

The “Passport” this document refers to, is the Athlete’s Biological Passport (ABP), a modern method of testing. A strict protocol must be followed, to eliminate any possibility of false positive tests.

Although one or two experts will have found that Farah’s Passport “is highly likely the result of the Use of a Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method”, three experts must all concur before any sanction can be imposed. This obviously did not happen, and within the next four months, Farah’s blood reports have returned to within “normal” range. Read more on the ABP protocol here ABP Operating Guidelines. Page 58

Farah And Salazar, The Definitive Guide 25

Why were the NOP’s two most successful runners, the only athletes in Salazar’s “inner circle”WomensRunning, on this list at all? Another coincidence?

One more layer of suspicion is added to Farah’s growing pile.

Neither Farah or Rupp comment personally on the Fancy Bears leaks or L-Carnitine injection. Regarding the leaked USADA report on Salazar, Farah states;

It is old news. Nothing is new. I said it clear from day one, if anything does come out, I’m out. It has been going since 2015, it is boring now.

Source Guardian

It is not old news. The increased asthma medication, the three extremely high doses of supplement, the L-Carnitine injection, the “Likely Doping” report. These are all new issues. And Farah has failed to explain any of them.

Near the end of 2017, Farah announces he will be leaving Salazar and moving back to London. The reasons; to concentrate on marathons, and be nearer his friends and family. He insists the decision has nothing to do with the allegations surrounding Salazar;

USADA has not charged him with anything. If I had ever had any reason to doubt Alberto, I would not have stood by him all this time.

Source Independent

There are now around 30 eye witnesses making claims against Salazar. The leaked USADA report proves that he is under intense investigation, there is a large body of evidence against him. At this point, it is virtually inevitable that Salazar is going to face charges, I would call that “reason to doubt Alberto”.

London World Champs – 2017

Farah wins Gold in the 10,000m and Silver in the 5000m. Bringing his tally of global medals to 12

Laura Muir fires NOP coach, while Farah stays

Farah And Salazar, The Definitive Guide 26

Early in 2018, Laura Muir, British athlete, says she is uncomfortable racing against Genzebe Dibaba, because she is coached by Jama Aden. Then Muir hires Dave McHenry, head strength and conditioning coach for NOP. The press point out to Muir that NOP are currently under investigation. Within a day, she terminates the relationship. Mail

That makes sense to me. Clean athlete, who’s livelihood depends on her reputation, cannot risk that by associating with anyone under suspicion. Meanwhile, despite having left NOP, Farah is still working with McHenry on an “independent basis”. The same lengths that Muir will go to, immediately, to protect her reputation, don’t apply to Farah? How has it got to this.

Farah Vs Gebreselassie

Farah And Salazar, The Definitive Guide 27

In a press conference, 2019, before competing in the London Marathon, Farah initiates a bizarre spat with Haile Gebresalaisse (one of the greatest distance runners of all time). Farah accuses Gebre’s hotel staff of stealing from his room in Ethiopia. He says Gebre could have done more about it. He shows the press a text he sent to Gebre at the time;

Know that I am not responsible for what I say during the press conference in London and what influence it will have on your personality and your business. Greetings, Sir Mo.

Source Guardian

What is going through Farah’s mind?  Why is he showing around that nasty and threatening text message? Is he proud of it? And did he actually just refer to himself as “Sir Mo”?

Farah’s PR people must be pulling their hair out. Gebre has always conducted himself with grace and good nature, he is quick to smile and much loved. There have never been any question marks over his career. He is the wrong person to start attacking.

He responds that Farah had been involved in “multiple reports of disgraceful conduct”, including a fight in the hotel gym, where the police were involved. He claims Farah left the hotel without paying, and all this bad blood stems from Gebre’s refusal to let Jama Aden stay in his hotel, after the EPO raid in 2016, a decision which caused Farah to hold a “grudge”. Guardian

Remember that Aden is the coach that Farah has no association with.

Salazar Is Banned

In October 2019, After nearly 7 years of investigation, USADA finally announce that the American Arbitration Association have found Salazar and Dr Brown guilty of doping offences. Salazar vs USADA decision

“This hearing and decision process has been, stated conservatively, extensive: 1,562 exhibits, seven full days of testimony, 2,543 pages of hearing transcript, prehearing and post-hearing briefs, which consist of 1,154 pages, 14 Procedural Orders issued by the Panel, and the Panel was required to spend thousands of hours on this matter.” Salazar vs USADA decision

Despite Nike throwing their enormous weight behind this case, funding the defence of Salazar and Dr Brown, both defendants are issued the maximum ban for a first offence, four years. Of the five charges brought against Salazar, three were decided against him.

There were people sitting in the window sills, that’s how many people there were on his side. there weren’t enough seats, people were sitting on file boxes

by  Kara Goucher. Ex-NOP athlete and witness in case CSC

None of the violations point directly to Farah, or any of the NOP athletes.

The fallout is massive. Nike Oregon Project is shut down, the head of UKA steps down, as well as the Nike CEO. The World Anti Doping Authority announce they will investigate all NOP athletes. UKA launch another investigation into their failings with Salazar. Mary Cain, ex-NOP athlete, lights up the internet with her confession that Salazar had emotionally abused her to the point where she was cutting herself and having suicidal thoughts. Other female NOP athletes come forward with similar stories. New York Times

If Farah wasn’t furious with Salazar before, surely he is livid now. The allegations that came out in 2015 have been proven to be true, yet Farah stuck by Salazar and defended him throughout. Farah must feel like an idiot, he must feel betrayed, and utterly crushed, now that the association between himself and Salazar is so toxic.

Farah And Salazar, The Definitive Guide 28

You flew over there to demand answers. You bought all his crap. You stuck by him in the face of all the evidence. Your own reputation is forever damaged by your relationship with him. You insist you are a clean athlete, but the coach and the project are now proven to be dirty, people are not going to believe you. How does this make you feel?

At a press conference at Chicago Marathon, shortly after the ban is announced, it is the perfect time to for Farah to vent, he is asked if he feels let down by Salazar. He replies;

I feel let down by you guys to be honest…There’s a clear agenda to this. I’ve seen this many, many times. And I know where you’re going with it. I’ve seen it with Raheem Sterling, I’ve seen it with Lewis Hamilton. I can’t win, whatever I do.

Source Youtube

Instead of criticising Salazar in the slightest, Farah accuses the media of being racist.

This is a weak attempt to deflect attention away from himself, especially when Galen Rupp is also at the same press conference, facing the same questions about his relationship with the banned coach. YouTube

Farah continues;

The headline is Farah, Farah, Farah. There is no allegation against me. I’ve not done anything wrong. Let’s be clear – these allegations are about Alberto Salazar

Source Guardian

Yes. Let’s be clear – these allegations are about Alberto Salazar, your coach, who was using banned methods. Who was he using them on? Himself? No. His athletes. So the allegation is against you.

Farah And Salazar, The Definitive Guide 29

Farah’s official statement says a whole load of nothing;

I’m relieved that USADA has, after four years, completed their investigation into Alberto Salazar. I left the Nike Oregon Project in 2017 but as I’ve always said, I have no tolerance for anyone who breaks the rules or crosses a line. A ruling has been made and I’m glad there has finally been a conclusion.

When Farah is asked if he is sad about the closure of NOP, the project that brought him so much success, so many fans, and so much money, he says;

It is not my decision to shut down the Oregon Project. That is Nike not me, I am Mo Farah.

When it is pointed out that he is still wearing Nike;

Nike pay me a lot of money

SourceBBC

Nike – The Business

NIKE was founded by a runner and his coach. They started making and selling running shoes. Running is central to Nike. They are by far the biggest sports brand in the world, with over seventy thousand employees and annual revenues in excess of $36 billion. Slogan is “Do The Right Thing”. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Their use of sweatshops and child labour was the first sign the brand were putting profits ahead of ethics.

Sponsor to controversial stars; Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong and Justin Gatlin, who was twice banned for doping, but given a new deal regardless. Practise tax avoidance schemes, and operate a policy of dropping women athletes from their contracts if they get pregnant. The President of World Athletics, Seb Coe, was a paid ambassador for the brand for 38 years. Major sponsors of UK Athletics and USA Track & Field. Salazar was informing the Nike CEO about his ongoing experiments with banned substances.

Consider that the Nike Oregon Project had enjoyed little success before Farah joined. All Nike’s millions had led to one global medal in ten years. The boss, Salazar, would have felt that pressure. If he was searching for a talented athlete to bring in, who would do whatever he was told, without question, in order to achieve success, and Nike money, maybe Farah fit that bill;

Salazar, on why he accepted Farah into the Nike Oregon Project:

I took on Mo because he is such a nice kid…I love the kid.

Source Telegraph

Also Salazar, on why he accepted Farah into the Nike Oregon Project:

the London Olympics were coming up, and Nike said,hey it would be great if you could get this guy to run well. It’s good for Nike.So sometimes, it’s a business

Source USADAreport

Nike have not apologised for their part in harbouring and funding (intentionally or otherwise) a dirty, abusive program and coach. They have not apologised to the clean athletes they funnelled into the program. They have not apologised to the athletes who were abused, in fact, they have challenged Mary Cain’s claims NYPost . They have just reopened the Salazar building at Nike HQ. They are defending Salazar and supporting his appeal against the ban.

Conclusion

It is excruciatingly difficult to understand how Farah “never saw any wrong doing” BBC in his seven years at NOP, a project awash with banned and prescription drugs, microdosing and megadosing. Where himself and Rupp were part of Salazar’s “inner circle”. And where 30 eye witnesses have come forward with evidence of wrong-doing.

I met Farah a few times whilst out in Kenya, before he was a World Champion. Once, we were sitting next to each other in an internet cafe, and we were both playing Fantasy Football. We started talking about football, then other stuff, he was friendly and chatty. I remember leaving, thinking what a nice, humble, down-to-earth guy.

I also witnessed an incident where Farah, training on the track in Kenya, collided with a child. Farah had cuts all over his legs, the girl was crying. Farah jumped up in a rage and challenged the girl, as if he was going to hit her, before backing down.

Farah And Salazar, The Definitive Guide 31

I have spoken, off record, with dozens of British athletes who knew him, trained with him, raced him, or were just fans of his, like me. Yes, their opinions are not proof of anything. But these are runners who follow the sport as closely as I do, who have followed Farah as closely as I have, their views matter at least as much as the journalists who write the stories. And It would seem Farah has lost a lot of friends along the way. There is a consensus that the success, fame and fortune, are taking their toll on Farah’s grip on reality.

When I ask if Farah is clean, most say yes, up to the time where he joined Salazar, at which point, he did what he needed to do to become the best in the world.

“Farah has never failed a drugs test and has always strongly denied breaking any rules.”

Source BBC

Like waves upon the shore, this is still true. And it may always be true.

Farah made the below statement in 2017:

say it how it is. I want you to write the truth about what’s out there and educate people out there. But be honest with them. If you say Mo Farah has done something wrong‚ prove it.

Source Guardian

I have tried to string together fractured, marooned stories, lost in the mire of social media and complexity, tried to create a rock to survive the persistent sea. This is my little contribution to transparency and fairness in our sport. It would be short-sighted, remiss and foolish of us to pretend it’s not there, succumb to the cloak of the fractured wreck.

Is any of this irrefutable evidence against Farah? Valid in a court of arbitration? Probably not.

Do I think Mo did it clean?

If I was Farah and I was clean; I would have left in 2015 when the allegations first surfaced, and, if I failed to do that, I would be absolutely condemning Salazar now and apologising profusely to everyone affected. To Mary Cain, who was my teammate while Salazar was fat shaming her in public, to all the whistle-blowers that lost their jobs for telling the truth and received death threats, to the media, for falsely accusing them of having an agenda, and most of all, to the public, for my part in tarnishing the dream.

If I was Farah and I was guilty; well, I would probably blame everyone around me, call the press racist, refuse to condemn the banned coach who brought me so much success, and I would stay with Nike, the brand that supported the whole dirty program but still “pay me a lot of money”.

Farah has recently announced that he will be attempting to compete in the 10,000m at the next Olympics, Tokyo 2020. It’s the end of the track for Salazar and the NOP, but it looks like the Mo Show is not over.

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Russell Bentley
Russell Bentley
Track runner. Trained in Kenya, Won the Snowdonia Marathon 2018, PB Berlin Marathon 2:20:20

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