In Defence of Mo Farah…

The banning of Mo Farah’s former coach Alberto Salazar from competitive sports for doping violations has raised questions about Britain’s 2012 Olympics hero.

Or, at least, it would have done were it not for the fact that British athletes don’t cheat.

Salazar, who has faced accusations of illegal and inappropriate activity both from investigators and from former colleagues for years, coached from 2011 to 2017, during which time the British athlete endured his greatest years of success.

But that must have been a coincidence because Farah is British and British athletes play fair.

One could justly ask oneself how Farah, a talented but unexceptional long distance runner who did not make the 5000m final in the 2008 Olympics and finished seventh in the 2009 World Championships, could become so dominant once he had begun to work with Salazar. One could ask oneself if it was possible for an athlete to bloom so suddenly after years of futile efforts without some kind of chemical assistance.

Well, one could ask that if it was not that doping is something the Russians do, not our upright British athletes.

One could be sceptical of Farah’s claim that he missed a drug test shortly after he had started working with Salazar – his second missed test in around a year – because he was asleep and was not roused by the doorbell.

Or, at least, one could if he was a suspicious continental.

One could find it curious that Farah’s former “unofficial facilitator” Jama Aden has been arrested for possessing EPO, and that Farah appears to have either told fibs about the extent to which he was involved with Aden or suffered a devastating memory lapse.

One could find it curious, that is, if Farah was a scheming Yank and not an upstanding Brit.

It is not just Farah’s legacy that needs defending. One could find it very odd indeed that Steve Cram, British long distance running legend and voice of BBC athletics, dismissed investigations into Farah’s camp as a “witch hunt” in 2015 and still maintains, without qualification, that Farah has done “nothing wrong”. One could find extremely strange that Paula Radcliffe, another British running legend, has responded to Salazar’s banning not with condemnation of the disgraced coach but with questions about the value of the the US Anti-Doping Agency investigation. One could point out that Cram and Radcliffe both have ties to Nike and Salazar runs the Nike Oregon Project.

But they too are British.

One could have concerns about the fact that Neil Black, UK Athletics chief, claimed to have “looked [Salazar] in the eye” and decided that he was innocent in 2017, and that UK Athletics ruled there was “no reason to be concerned” about his relationship with Farah. One might find the mealy-mouthed reaction of Seb Coe, head of the International Association of Athletics Federations, somewhat disturbing. One might even point out that Coe spent almost four decades serving as an adviser to Nike. This seem like a conflict of interest.

But he too is British. Not a Swiss greaseball like Sepp Blatter.

Overall, there are some grounds on which to feel a little cynical about the 2012 Olympics. Its “clean” reputation was soon ruined by a tidal wave of failed drugs tests from Russian, Kazakh and Turkish athletes. It seems to be true that the Russians had the most systematic doping program. But some might ask whether British athletes are immune from cheating, and whether our sunny image of “Team GB” has blinded us to at least some level of grubby behaviour?

Of course the answer is no. British athletes don’t cheat.

About bsixsmith

I am a writer of stories and poems - published by Every Day Fiction, The London Journal of Fiction, 365 Tomorrows and Det Poetiske Bureau - and a columnist for Quillette, Areo and Bombs & Dollars.
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