For scholars, the equivalent quote to ‘if you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas’ in Latin would be qui cum canibus concumbunt cum pulicibus surgent, both of which provide the sound advice of being cautious of the company you keep, as associating with those of low reputation may not only lower your own but also lead you astray by the faulty assumptions, premises and data of the unscrupulous.
You see Mo Farah blatantly and publicly flaunted such proverb advice by his close association with Alberto Salazar – his athletics coach for some half a dozen years.
Salazar from Cuban was a child immigrant to the US, who became a world-class Marathon runner and subsequently an American track coach. He headed up the ‘Oregon Project’, a Nike secretive hideaway elite training group for long-distance runners established nearly 20 years ago, primarily for the benefit of American athletes. It has now folded because Salazar, its long-term head coach, together with the project’s doctor Jeffrey Brown, are disgraced by a 4-year violations ban from all athletics involvement – imposed early this month by the US anti-doping agency for their trafficking of testosterone, the prohibited use of L-carnitine, and tampering with doping controls.
Somalian born Farah, himself is a renowned and revered British distance runner [1500 m, 3000 m, 5000 m, 10,000 m, Half marathon, and Marathon] with 19 Gold medals, plus 4 European and 1 World record to his credit. His wealth is accrued from his athletics performances and results, but even more so from lucrative commercial deals, and is probably in the region of £4 million. He was honoured with a knighthood two years ago
It is an unfortunate truth that in modern times the sporting world, including athletics, is blighted by the fact of too many competitors are willing to deviously cheat their ‘clean’ opponents, by taking performance-enhancing drugs or treatments which secures their ongoing success, and hence enormous financial reward.
Unmasking of the cheats can be a problem because sportspeople can only be tested for the substances ‘known’ to be in use as performance enhancers and efforts are constantly being made by the charlatans to find and use substances that aren’t on the banned list
The whole problem is compounded by the complicity of the sports’ authorities in regularity covering-up drug misuse to ‘protect’ their sport’s public image, as well as them handing out totally inadequate punishments that do not deter offenders nor keep them sidelined for long (exampled by the 2015 Beijing World Athletics Championships, where four of the supposedly top eight athletes in the 100 meters men’s final were reinstated drug cheats and in the 200 meters final there were two –all these athletes finally caught-out but who have been allowed by the IAAF to get away with it, eh?)
[Major sports suffering from drug cheating include: cycling, football, baseball, weightlifting, volleyball, judo, wrestling, rowing, equestrian, gymnastics, field hockey, athletics track & field, rugby league, basketball, snooker, boxing, cricket]
Now, the point is that Farah, due to his close links with Salazar, has now needlessly got himself embroiled in the sewer of athletes’ widespread drug cheating controversy, yet he clearly has been misadvised in again using the world’s media to loudly proclaim total innocence of wrongdoing. You see, that doesn’t aid him because like all criminals, even those with previous convictions, sport druggies always deny ‘everything’ even when they are ‘banged to rights’, as the old saying goes, eh?
“The lady doth protest too much, methinks” Hamlet
Mo made a major mistake in not immediately severing his training relationship with coach Salazar when a female two-time Olympian whistle-blower went public about Salazar’s non-clean principles and his programme on a BBC Panorama exposé documentary in 2015.
Instead, he made a bad call by staying-on for another 2 years, although that didn’t mean of course that he himself was implicated in any transgressions, did it? No, but nevertheless however unfairly, people unfortunately will have doubts about the past performances of ALL the athletes who have been involved in Nike’s Oregon programme, and more so the ones who hung around during and after the four-year anti-doping investigation and two-year court battle behind closed doors over Salazar’s Oregon set-up, eh?
Last week, Mo Farah made claims that he is being victimised and naively said that his reputation has not been tarnished at all by his involvement with Salazar’s programme. He disturbingly even played the race card by claiming the scrutiny he is naturally under was motivated by a racist media agenda – yes, it is true that there are still vile pockets of racism in sport, but that is a worrying attitude coming from a man who has been taken close into the hearts of the British public over many many years, isn’t it?
The basic truth is that it is Farah who has put himself in the firing line by constantly being confrontational and aggressive in interviews, while he has for years defended Salazar and their relationship – he has never voiced any criticism whatsoever of the coach and even now he talks about ‘they are only allegations’, notwithstanding that millions had to be spent by Nike providing legal defence council, despite finally the guilty verdict, or the imposition of a ban, nor the closure of the project, plus the banning of the project’s medical consultant, and indeed Mo’s personal physiotherapist being sacked as UK Athletics’ head of performance for his woeful refusal to acknowledge the legitimate concerns about Farah’s relationship with Salazar and the project. Why has Farah personally risked his personal credibility in that way, one wonders?
In this day and age, when big money is readily available to clean competitors through athletics meeting organisers worldwide, conglomerate sponsors galore, untold commercial businesses, and indeed an enthralled paying public, the elite professional athletes would be wise to maintain a squeaky-clean image, wouldn’t they?
Farah hasn’t done that with his inclusive relationship with the Nike Oregon Project and its coach has he? No, it may have brought him greater success, but that has come with a price of greater scrutiny and public distrust, hasn’t it?
Yep, all these elite athletes are up for it in pushing the regulations to the wire to gain a competitive advantage over their opponents, and Nike’s programme is a case in point isn’t it?
Too true, as it has examined devious ways of endurance athletes’ performance enhancement like intravenous treatments, and it has in particular actually implemented an accommodation system for its residents that simulate high altitude living conditions. The point is that the oxygen in the air is less there so those athletes who live at altitude develop more red blood cells, increasing their athletic performance when performing at a lower level. That poses the serious question of is it ethical and fair for the athletes from low countries, who are sufficiently rich and famous, to gain a special advantage over ordinary opponents by using such special conditioning, solely designed to improve their race results and steal records, eh?
Over a decade ago, the World Anti-Doping Agency was even minded to ban use of such high-altitude houses, claiming that ‘altitude doping’ was an equivalent to blood doping, but it backed-off – probably because there was no realistic way of policing a ban, nor preventing athletes training at altitude, eh?
These days, elite athletes need to be especially careful to distance themselves from the cheats who use banned substances, if they are themselves to avoid any potential suspicion of their own use of non-legal means to achieving high performance.
Regrettably, Farad hasn’t been all that successful in that quest, has he? No, so doping allegations have surfaced a number of times during his track career and that’s the root of his current problems. resulting in his unjustified lambasting the British press. He has maintained he has never used banned substances and he has been frequently tested with no recorded failures, which of course helps to build public confidence that he is indeed clean
However, his current abject failure to support the authorities and their dealings with the Salazar issue, typifies his head-in-the-sand attitude to the reasons for the intense scrutiny he vehemently complains about.
Nearly a decade ago he missed compulsory random drug tests – two in a twelve-month period when three would have resulted in an anti-doping rule violation. That inevitably raised questions, didn’t it?
Four years back, at the time of the doping allegations first being raised against coach Salazar and distance runner Galen Rupp, pictures were published of Mo training in the company of Hamza Driouch, a banned athlete guilty of doping violations, who the year before had been officially banned from attending training sessions in any capacity for two years. If Farah puts himself in situations like that, mixing with low-life cheats, he was hardly justified at the time to hold a press conference to voice anger that his name was “being dragged through mud”, was he?
Also, some two or three years ago some official athletics database information was a leaked, which had recorded that an expert had deemed some of Farah’s blood values suspicious regarding doping, and though Farah was cleared of wrongdoing when his records were flagged as having become normal, that kind of controversy is inevitably damaging to any athlete, isn’t it?
[A couple of years ago Farah issued a statement in which he recorded that he was a “clean athlete” and while the wider UK public are prepared to fully accept his word, he has to be more circumspect about doping in his sport if he is to protect his substantive reputation]