British runner to stick his neck out for coach, despite American being probed for doping
RIO DE JANEIRO • Mohamed Farah, who could become arguably one Britain’s greatest Olympians in the next fortnight, will be supported in Rio de Janeiro by a man still being investigated for alleged doping offences.
His American coach, Alberto Salazar, remains a divisive figure, creating a difficult situation for an undeniably brilliant runner and also British Athletics.
Salazar, who is paid by Nike and accredited with USA Track and Field, will join the reigning 5,000m and 10,000m Olympic champion when Britain’s endurance runners arrive in Brazil next week.
“I won’t feel any joy or excitement (if Farah wins gold),” said Steve Magness, the whistle-blower whose allegations against Salazar sparked a US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) investigation that is now into its second year.
“The part of me that is a fan is almost dead. It will be like watching stage-managed wrestling.”
Salazar denied all the allegations made last year by BBC’s Panorama and the ProPublica website. One involved him giving testosterone to Galen Rupp when the American runner was a teenager, with the coach passing on pills in a hollowed-out paperback book.
Usada first started investigating Salazar two years beforehand, after being approached by another American runner, Kara Goucher.
Last month, Farah responded to rumors that Usada had shelved its investigation into Salazar and his Nike Oregon Project by saying he felt vindicated in standing by the American.
The Briton has said he will sever all ties if Salazar is found guilty of doping offences. But he is wrong if he feels Usada has given up.
The failure to depose Jeffrey Brown, an endocrinologist under investigation for possibly providing banned substances to athletes, was an undeniable setback.
Dr Brown, who denies any wrongdoing, had worked with some of Salazar’s athletes in the past.
Usada, though, was interviewing and re-interviewing people related to the case until recently.
Farah feels he has been unfairly dragged into the Salazar story, with his own photograph placed next to articles on doping investigations.
The long-distance runner has never been accused of any wrongdoing, but in the present climate, with Russia’s track and field team banned from Rio, the scrutiny has never been more intense.
Farah is on the cusp of becoming one of Britain’s greatest athletes.
If he repeats his endurance double, he would be the first man to do so since Lasse Viren, of Finland, in 1976. He would also surpass Daley Thompson and Sebastian Coe to rival Steve Redgrave and Chris Hoy as Britain’s greatest Olympian.
The uncertainty around Salazar, however, is an unavoidable caveat.
While Magness has no reason to suspect Farah and lauded Usada’s work, he said the lack of action since his allegations was “saddening” and “telling” .
There have been other unfortunate links too.
In June a Somalian coach, Jama Aden, was arrested after police found performance-enhancing drugs in his hotel room.
British Athletics was quick to say it had not used Aden this year and that he helped Farah for only a week last year.
But the website Letsrun found a Facebook picture of Aden next to Barry Fudge, British Athletics’ head of endurance, as well as an e-mail from Magness revealing Aden shared workouts with Salazar in 2012.
Aden’s links with Nike were also highlighted.
It scarcely helped matters when it emerged Farah had missed two drug tests in the build-up to London 2012. A third would have resulted in a ban.
While Usada is still investigating Salazar, British Athletics’ independent audit of its work with the Nike Oregon Project was completed in two months, giving Farah the green light to continue working with the American.
“It is not in the interests of British Athletics to have any sort of scandal,” Magness said.
THE TIMES, LONDON
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2016, with the headline ‘Farah-Salazar ties to last the distance’.