British distance runner talks to The Times about coaches Alberto Salazar and Jama Aden during rare one-to-one in Ethiopia
Mo Farah believes he has suffered “financially and emotional” due to his links with Alberto Salazar. He admits he has known controversial coach Jama Aden for years and has, at times, behaved badly and struggled to express himself in media interviews.
These revelations appear in an exclusive interview published in The Times this weekend that reporter Matt Lawton did with Farah in Ethiopia recently. The article also sees the multiple global track champion criticising some of the athletes who blew the whistle on the anti-doping-related behaviour that led to the coach receiving a four-year ban last year.
However perhaps the most surprising thing about the piece is the fact no PR people or media officers were involved. Representatives from Freuds, the PR firm that has attempted to protect Farah’s reputation in recent years, was not involved. Instead, Lawton and photographer Marc Aspland simply met with Farah and his coach Gary Lough while Farah was training at altitude, mainly on a bike due to a recent Achilles injury.
Farah and Lough believe the fall-out from the Salazar scandal has led to him being unable to cash in fully on his 2016 Olympic triumphs. “There’s been a lot of stuff, financially and emotionally, where I have suffered a lot,” he told The Times.
“I didn’t have a clue,” he says. “For me [when news broke of the ban last September] it was like, wow, four years. I was thinking, ‘Oh my God’. I know I never did anything. I know he was my coach. But to put up with this year after year, it’s not you, it’s the coach, but it’s you it is aimed at, is quite frustrating.”
Farah also explained why he didn’t leave Salazar more swiftly. When he was still with the Oregon Project, Farah says Salazar “hadn’t been found guilty”, adding: “And it wasn’t just about me. As a single man I could have just said ‘move’. But I had three kids — actually I think my son was just born — I had four kids, three at school, my wife’s there, we’d bought a house. I’m not just going to say, ‘There’s been some allegations, we’re going.’”
Lawton however says in the article that Farah did not give “one word of criticism for his former coach”. The athlete also defended Neil Black, his long-time physiotherapist who resigned as UK Athletics performance director last autumn after having previously praised Salazar’s coaching work.
On Aden, the Somalian coach who has been investigated for doping offences, Farah admitted that previous denials that they did not know each other were “not the reality”.
As for Salazar, when news of his ban broke last year Farah was training in Arizona. “We were completely blindsided by it,” Lough says, while Farah adds: “I’m not named in the reports and none of the witnesses are saying ‘I saw Mo Farah do this’.”
BBC’s Panorama programme is due to focus on Farah and UKA’s relationship with Salazar in its latest episode on Monday but Farah and Lough insisted that the timing of their interview with The Times had nothing to do with that.