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Like it or not, Mo Farah will never escape doping suspicions

The question of whether or not he is clean will continue to follow him no matter what

Britain’s Mo Farah wins the 3,000m at the r Anniversary Games at London Stadium. Photograph: Getty Images

Is Mo Farah clean?

That used to be a question, now it reads more a like a sentence. Because it seems no matter how fast or how much further Farah runs into history, these days he still can’t hide from the suspicions of doping.

And with that can feel either safe or scared in the knowledge there may never be an answer – and in that sense he’s certainly not alone.

What is certain is that these are hard times for the honest athlete. The Guardian reported on a survey earlier this month which found that trust and confidence in sport had declined by about one-third in the last 12 months: soccer supporters actually claiming the least amount of confidence – 36 per cent of those surveyed saying they do not trust their sport at all.


Although for some gently ironic reason, the more cycling seems to wrestle with its own sense of trust and confidence the more people seem to pour out onto the mountains each year to watch the Tour de France.

For Farah, it may be a case of being the victim or the culprit in the loss of confidence in athletics, depending on whether you trust in him or not.

His problem is twofold: he continues to produce breathtaking and unbreakable displays of distance running, and when the World Championships get underway in the London Olympic Stadium on Friday, August 4th, Farah will be the headline act on the opening night – looking to extend his now unbroken streak of nine global final wins, including his Olympic double-double over 5,000m-10,000m, from London 2012 and Rio last summer.


At the same time Farah continues to be associated with distance running coaches of some disrepute, not just the American Alberto Salazar, who single-handedly transformed Farah from mostly also-ran to mostly invincible, but also Jama Aden, the Somalian-born, Ethiopian-based coach who was arrested by Spanish police last summer for possessing an array of performance enhancing drugs.

At age 34, old though certainly not ancient, there is nothing to suggest Farah won’t repeat his distance double in London. Indeed the British runner hasn’t lost a major championship race on the track since the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, when he was gunned down in the closing strides of the 10,000m by Ethiopia’s Ibrahim Jeilan, after what looked like a slight tactical miscalculation more than anything else.

Farah (right) celebrates winning the Mmen’s 10,000m final at the London Olympics with USA’s Galen Rupp (left) and coach Alberto Salazar. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Farah came back to win the 5,000m later in the week, before successfully doubling in the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, and again two years ago in Beijing: it’s an astonishing winning streak matched only by Usain Bolt, and perhaps only bettered by Dublin’s continuing unbreakable run in the Leinster football championship.

Only instead of being lauded, as any proper unbeaten streak should be, Farah finds his dominance being questioned – the latest evidence of which came after his 3,000m victory at the London Anniversary Games last Sunday.

Documents leaked by the Russian hackers Fancy Bears the previous week included Farah’s name in a list of athletes flagged by the IAAF for suspicious biological passports: the details weren’t sketchy, or indeed outdated.

“Likely doping,” read the notation from a test on Farah dated November 23rd, 2015. “Passport suspicious: further data is required.”

This assessment was apparently based on the results of testing over an extended period of time, although a second database leaked by Fancy Bears, attached to an email dated April 2016, then records Farah’s test as “now flagged as normal”.

When the Fancy Bears leaks were put to Farah last Sunday by members of the British press (the IAAF has not denied their authenticity) Farah claimed “you guys just make something out of nothing”, and that “I will never fail a drugs test”.

Blood tests

A statement from his representatives also claimed Farah has been “subject to many blood tests during his career and has never failed a single one”, and that they would “pursue any claims to the contrary through all necessary legal routes”.

It used to be that a statement such as “I will never fail a drugs test” could be carved in stone; now it is written in water. And “likely doping” isn’t nothing, and deserves at least something of an explanation.

In the meantime the US Anti-Doping Agency continues to investigate Salazar’s methods of training at the Nike Oregon Project, which Farah joined towards the end of 2010, just when his form on the global stage appeared to be dipping. It was to be a strictly American project, until towards the end of 2010, Salazar was first approached by Farah.

At the start of the 2011 season, just a few months after moving to Oregon, Farah lowered the British 10,000m to 26:46.57, knocking 43 seconds off his pre-Salazar best; he promptly followed that with a new British 5,000m record of 12:53.11; and in 2013, he improved his pre-Salazar best over 1,500m by almost six seconds, running another British record of 3:28.81.

The Aden association, however slim, was raised in the aftermath of Farah’s victories in Rio, after a picture emerged of Farah sitting alongside Aden while training in Ethiopia in early 2016. Aden’s daughter also suggested via social media they are also “good friends”.

Last weekend, Spanish newspaper El Confidencial reported that Aden was now being indicted on public charges, along with his team physiotherapist, and details the sting which resulted in his arrest in the town of Sabadell, 20km north of Barcelona, last June. Trafficking of doping products is a criminal offence in Spain, and the Aden camp was found to be administering several brands of EPO.

According to El Confidencial, among those to "occasionally" train in Sabadell was "Mo Farah, a four-time Olympic champion". Another sentence, or another question?