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 Briton accused the Ethiopian of ignoring his pleas for help after he was robbed at the latter's hotel in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Wednesday.
The four-time Olympic champion 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 Villageon on his birthday on March 23. Farah also criticised the retired Gebrselassie for failing to respond to his calls about the incident.
However, two-time Olympic and four-time world champion Gebrselassie responded hours later by saying hotel staff had accused Farah of "disgraceful conduct which was not expected from a person of his calibre and his entourage during his stay".
The 46-year-old said that Farah, 36, 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 claimed that Farah had left without paying his heavily discounted £2,320 hotel bill and that the robbery had been quickly reported to the police, with five employees held in custody for three weeks before being cleared.
Gebrselassie said 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".
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 also 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the allegations, saying they were an attempt to cover up the robbery, revealing that an offer to reimburse him was withdrawn when he left to stay elsewhere because he felt uncomfortable at the resort.
The spokesman added that Farah would welcome Gebrselassie's team to get in touch with him to resolve the matter.
THE TIMES, LONDON