Mo Farah enlists PR experts to tackle growing controversy

More questions raised about two missed drugs tests before London 2012 Olympics

Mo Farah has recruited a team of crisis management experts to quell the public relations storm surrounding him. Photo: Barry Coombs/PA

Mo Farah has recruited a team of crisis management experts to quell the public relations storm surrounding him. Photo: Barry Coombs/PA

 

Mo Farah has recruited a team of crisis management experts to quell the public relations storm surrounding him after more questions were raised about his two missed drugs tests before the London 2012 Olympics.

Farah, who won 5,000m and 10,000m gold at the Games, was revealed to have missed tests in 2010 and 2011, the second of which came after he failed to hear his doorbell.

However, anti-doping officials yesterday confirmed they would have tried repeatedly to rouse him during the hour in question by knocking on his door every 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile Nicole Sapstead, the UK Anti-Doping chief executive, said that, while she was not at liberty to discuss individual cases, it was “not common for athletes to miss two tests” in a 12-month period.

A third missed test would have counted as the equivalent of a failed drugs test and could have led to Farah receiving a possible four-year ban and at least a minimum two years.

Farah, who is training in Font Romeu in France, is now taking advice from the public relations agency Freud’s, which calls itself “the world’s leading strategic marketing and communications consultancy”.

It is also well-known for providing discreet advice to clients and celebrities.

One expert with intimate knowledge of the situation called Freud’s “experts in crisis management”. Given the intense focus on Farah during the past fortnight, the agency will need to be.

His side

A further complication is that Farah’s agent, Ricky Simms, also manages Galen Rupp, the American who was also accused by the BBC’s Panorama of wrongdoing.

Among the charges against Salazar are that he gave the banned steroid testosterone to Rupp when he was 16, coached him to get a therapeutic use exemption so he could use an intravenous drip before the 2011 World Championships and flouted several other doping rules.

Salazar and Rupp deny all allegations and Farah has not been accused of anything illegal.

However, Farah is facing renewed scrutiny after a report in the Daily Mail, which revealed an email exchange between Ukad and Farah’s representatives suggesting the runner missed one test in 2010 and another in early 2011 shortly after he had joined Salazar’s training group in Oregon.

The paper said that Farah had stated he did not hear the doorbell when missing his second test and that his agent, Simms, submitted video evidence filmed in Farah’s house in which he tried to show that it was difficult to hear the doorbell from his client’s bedroom.

Under the so-called “whereabouts” system introduced in 2009 elite British athletes have to specify where they will be for an hour a day in each 24-hour period.

During that time testers can turn up unannounced.

Graham Arthur, Ukad’s legal director, said that the agency followed a “detailed protocol” if an athlete did not answer the door to a doping control officer immediately at the prescribed hour.

“They are required to make reasonable efforts to locate the athlete. Ringing the doorbell every 10 or 15 minutes, knocking and staying for the full hour,” he said. “We often ask them to stay just past the hour on the off-chance the athlete is running late.”

Three chances

But he conceded that such cases could be difficult to prove, with Ukad having to prove to a standard of “comfortable satisfaction” that the athlete was deliberately evading the testers.

Sapstead added: “One missed test isn’t serious for us. Clearly if an athlete acquires a second one, it escalates our concern because they are that much nearer to three. They have three chances at this before they face a sanction.” (Guardian Service)

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