Athletics: Olympic rival accuses Mo Farah of blackmail and gym attack

Mo Farah (above) was accused of ignoring Haile Gebrselassie's pleas for help after he was robbed at his hotel in Addis Ababa.
Mo Farah (above) was accused of ignoring Haile Gebrselassie's pleas for help after he was robbed at his hotel in Addis Ababa.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (THE TIMES, LONDON) - Mo Farah has been accused by another Olympic champion of blackmail and attacking an athlete in a hotel gym.

The bitter war of words between Farah and Haile Gebrselassie, two of the biggest names in athletics history, broke out after the British four-time Olympic champion accused the Ethiopian of ignoring his pleas for help after he was robbed at his hotel in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

Farah, 36, claimed he had a watch, two phones and £2,600 (S$4,570) in four currencies stolen from his room at the YAYA Africa Athletics Village in Addis Ababa on his birthday in March. The hotel is owned by Gebrselassie, a two-time Olympic and four-time world champion. Farah criticised the Ethiopian, 46, for failing to respond to his calls about the incident.

However, Gebrselassie responded on Wednesday (April 24) by accusing Farah of "multiple reports of disgraceful conduct which was not expected from a person of his calibre and his entourage, during his stay by the hotel staff".

He said that Farah had been "reported to the police for attacking a married athlete in the gym, but due to my mediation role the criminal charge was able to be dropped". He also said that Farah had left without paying his heavily discounted £2,320 hotel bill. Farah denies the claims.

Gebrselassie also said the robbery had been quickly reported to the police, with five employees held in custody for three weeks before being cleared.

He said that he had stayed silent to protect Farah's status and his own feelings for the "good people of England where I raced and won multiple times".

However, he added: "But doing all this and other things to accommodate him... the return from him was receiving a short text message which looks like an act of blackmailing and accusation on April 22." Gebrselassie said he found the accusations to be an "act of defamation on my hard-earned reputation and business" and he had passed the matter to his lawyers.

A spokesman for Farah denied the allegations on Wednesday night and said they were an attempt to cover up the robbery, adding that an offer to reimburse Farah was withdrawn when he left to stay elsewhere because he felt uncomfortable at the resort.

Gebrselassie said Farah had turned down the offer of a safe, but Farah said he had asked for a new one. A spokesman for Farah said that he would welcome Gebrselassie's team getting in touch to resolve the matter.

Farah won gold in the 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.