Cloud over Farah thickens

British star switches tune on L-carnitine injections; UK body says it was within limits

Mo Farah on his way to eighth spot in last October's Chicago Marathon. He insists that he did not lie to investigators about L-carnitine injections but gave a fresh account after remembering the incidents. PHOTO: REUTERS
Mo Farah on his way to eighth spot in last October's Chicago Marathon. He insists that he did not lie to investigators about L-carnitine injections but gave a fresh account after remembering the incidents. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Mo Farah is facing fresh questions over his relationship with banned coach Alberto Salazar after it emerged that he repeatedly denied to United States Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) investigators that he was given injections of a controversial supplement - only to change his account.

The BBC's Panorama programme says that he was injected four times with L-carnitine two days before the 2014 London Marathon by then UK Athletics (UKA) chief medical officer, Dr Rob Chakraverty.

UKA head of distance running Barry Fudge, former UKA performance director Neil Black and Salazar - founder of the Nike Oregon Project, an elite running programme which Farah was a part of from 2011 to 2017 - were also present. However, the BBC claims when Farah was drug tested six days after the injections, on April 17, 2014, he did not record L-carnitine on his doping control form as he was required to do.

A year later, when he was questioned by Usada officials in London for nearly five hours, he also initially denied receiving the supplement.

While L-carnitine is a naturally occurring amino acid, there are strict rules governing its use under World Anti-Doping Agency rules - with infusions or injections only permitted provided the volume is below 50ml every six hours.

Salazar was found guilty of two violations of the rules in respect of other people when he received a four-year ban for doping offences last October.

In 2017, a UK parliamentary select committee heard that Farah had been given in total 13.5ml of L-carnitine - well under the permitted dose - but that Chakraverty had been heavily criticised in his appraisal for not recording it in any official records.

According to transcripts obtained by the BBC, the Somalia-born Briton was asked by Usada investigators: "If someone said you were taking L-carnitine injections, are they not telling the truth?"

Farah replied: "Definitely not telling the truth, 100 per cent. I've never taken L-carnitine injections at all."

He denied having taken L-carnitine injections despite repeated questions whether he did so under the recommendation of Salazar.

But according to the programme, minutes after leaving that interview, the four-time Olympic gold medallist then returned and gave a different account.

The transcript shows him telling Usada: "So I just wanted to come clear, sorry guys, and I did take it at the time and I thought I didn't. It all comes back for me, but at the time, I didn't remember."

When questioned about the incident earlier this month by The Times of London, the 36-year-old Farah said he had initially forgotten about the injections and the name of the supplement when asked about them by Usada - only to be reminded by Fudge.

He also expressed his frustration that the procedure was not properly recorded by Chakraverty and that "it never did anything for me".

While Farah declined to be interviewed by Panorama, a statement from his lawyers underlined he had done nothing wrong.

"Mr Farah understood the question one way and as soon as he left the room, he asked Mr Fudge and immediately returned to clarify and it is plain the investigators were comfortable with this explanation," the letter read.

In response to the revelations, UKA said "the dosage provided to Farah was well within the 50ml limit permitted".

Salazar, who has since lodged a statement to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against his four-year ban, added: "No Oregon Project athlete used a medication against the spirit of the sport." 

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2020, with the headline 'Cloud over Farah thickens'. Subscribe