Mo Farah was plunged into a doping controversy after allegations that his training partner, Galen Rupp, has taken the banned anabolic steroid testosterone since the age of 16, under the supervision of Alberto Salazar, who coaches both men.
BBC’s Panorama last night alleged a widespread cloak-and-dagger culture of drug abuse in Salazar’s American camp in Portland, Oregon — where Farah has trained since 2011 — including pills hidden in hollowed-out paperback novels and the doping of a schoolboy prodigy.
But Farah, 5 000 metres and 10 000m gold medallist at the 2012 London Olympics, insisted: ‘I have not taken any banned substances and Alberto has never suggested that I take a banned substance.
‘From my experience, Alberto and the Oregon Project have always followed Wada (World Anti- Doping Agency) rules.’
Allegations in the documentary came from former athletes and coaches involved with the Nike Oregon Project group, which Salazar oversees, and threaten to bring down the richest and most successful endurance running operation in the world.
It is suggested Rupp, now 29, who was second behind close friend Farah, 32, in the 10,000m in 2012, regularly took the asthma drug prednisone, which is banned in competition. Some of the most shocking claims are made by coach Steve Magness, chosen by Salazar to be his No 2 in 2011. He told the BBC he had documents which show Rupp was on testosterone even when he was in high school.
‘One day when I was at the office some people from Nike lab brought up lab reports and put them on Alberto’s desk,’ said Magness. ‘It was basically the blood levels of every athlete who had been in the Nike Oregon Project.
‘I started flipping through the book and came across Galen’s.
‘Under one it had “currently on testosterone and prednisone medication”, and when I saw that, I kind of jumped backwards. I was like, wait a minute, like on testosterone medication? When I looked a little further I saw it was all the way back in high school — and that was incredibly shocking.’
WADA rules say that athlete support personnel involved in doping someone as young as 16 could be liable for a lifetime ban. WADA chief executive David Howman said he was ‘totally shocked and very disappointed’ by the BBC claims.
Speaking from WADA’s Montreal headquarters, Howman said: ‘We are trying to get access to the BBC footage. I do not know how easy that will be — but that’s what we are undertaking at the moment. It’s probably sensible not to say too much until we have seen the footage of the programme, but if the allegations are as serious as they have been reported, then they need to be investigated beyond a national level.’
While Farah is not implicated in any of the allegations, it will doubtless be damaging to the double Olympic champion’s reputation to be linked to a doping scandal on this scale.
Indeed, Farah has been urged to seriously reconsider where he trains and the company he keeps after the wide-ranging investigation.
Andy Parkinson, a former UK Anti-Doping Agency boss, said: ‘On the basis of the allegations, any athlete who’s involved or associated with this group, including Mo Farah, should be seeking the necessary assurances around the fact that they’re operating within a safe environment.
‘Athletes have got a responsibility to have a close look at that, and to ask the question of themselves — “Do I feel comfortable in this environment and am I going to be able to continue to compete clean in this environment?” ’
All Farah’s successes on the global stage have come since he, along with wife Tania and family, moved to the US to work with Salazar in early 2011. Much of his success has been put down to the focus Salazar puts on technology and biomechanics.
But Kara Goucher, who was America’s most successful endurance runner and trained at the Nike Oregon Project for seven years before leaving in 2011, said Salazar was constantly pushing boundaries and looking for loopholes.
‘He is a sort of winner-at-all-costs person,’ she said, ‘and it’s hurting the sport and if the sport is to be saved it can’t keep going on the way it is.’
Another alleged episode which casts a bad light on Salazar’s methods could literally be from the pages of a crime thriller. Magness flew to Dusseldorf where Rupp was competing in a 5,000m race in February 2011. Soon after he arrived, Rupp told him he wasn’t feeling well and Magness called Salazar, who, he says, told him to expect a package.
Two days later, a box arrived at his hotel room and inside it he found a paperback thriller — a section of the pages had been hollowed out to form a compartment into which two pills were taped.
‘At that point,’ Magness told American website Propublica, ‘my mind was like, this is stuff you see in movies — extremely strange.’
Both Salazar and Rupp refused to comment on this alleged incident.
Salazar is also alleged to have asked his son, Alex, to conduct a test to determine how much testosterone cream would trigger a positive drugs test. Magness said Salazar Jnr told him they were worried someone could rub cream on one of their athletes after a race.
The BBC also alleged that six other people contacted the US Anti-Doping Agency to warn of wrongdoing at the Nike Oregon Project. In a statement to the BBC, Salazar said: ‘I have never coached an athlete to manipulate testing procedures or undermine the rules that govern our sport.’ He also said the legal supplement Testoboost had been ‘incorrectly recorded as “testosterone medication”,’ and ‘the allegations were based upon false assumptions and half-truths’.
Rupp said: ‘I have not taken any banned substances and Alberto has never suggested that I take a banned substance.’
Farah is due to compete at the Birmingham Diamond League this Sunday — a meeting which is suddenly attracting a lot more attention.
Source: Daily Mail