Panorama, a BBC investigative documentary series, is set to air a special today involving Mo Farah and his former coach Alberto Salazar. The program found interview records between the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and Farah, multiple 5,000m and 10,000m Olympic gold medallist and former European marathon record-holder, that reveal that he lied about receiving L-carnitine injections.
Salazar was Farah’s coach from 2011 to 2017, and in 2019 Salazar was banned from coaching for four years for doping violations. L-carnitine is an amino acid that has been shown to boost physical performance and speed up an athlete’s metabolism when injected into the bloodstream. It is not an illegal substance, but the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has limits on how much an athlete can inject, with a maximum volume of 50 ml every six hours.
Although it is legal (up to a certain point), many critics say that it is against the spirit of sport. In 2017, three years after Farah placed eighth in his debut marathon in London, the Sunday Times reported that he had received an L-carnitine injection ahead of the race.
For the week that's in it, here's what Galen Rupp said when I asked him in an interview in October 2017 about an L-carnitine infusion he reportedly received in January 2012 pic.twitter.com/fw3VLxWHSh
— Cathal Dennehy (@Cathal_Dennehy) February 24, 2020
U.K. Athletics responded to these claims, acknowledging them to be true, but denying that there was any wrongdoing on Farah’s part. Dr. Robin Chakraverty was the chief medical officer of U.K. Athletics at the time, and he said that their organization was aware of Farah’s use of L-carnitine. Dr. Chakraverty also said that the injection volume was 13.5ml, well below the 50 ml limit.
L-carnitine is not illegal, nor is there proof that Farah used more than was permitted, but he still endeavoured to keep these injections a secret. Athletes must list all medications and supplements they’ve taken in the previous seven days when they are drug tested, and Farah was tested on April 17, 2014, only six days after his injection. However, he did not include L-carnitine on his doping control form.
A year later, Farah was questioned by USADA officials for several hours—an interview for which Panorama has the transcript. In the interview, Farah is asked repeatedly whether he ever received L-carnitine injections, and he says that he never did.
The BBC reported that, when the questioning was over and Farah was dismissed, he met with U.K. Athletics’ head of distance running, Barry Fudge. Fudge had known of Farah’s L-carnitine injections ahead of the 2014 London Marathon, and he had been interviewed by USADA the day before.
Lies to investigators. Leaves the room, learns that the facts are out and they know he’s lying so he comes back with ‘it’s all coming back to me’ to try to save himself. Why anyone would choose to cheer for this person is beyond me. https://t.co/bA2ZJaBT4P
— emma coburn (@emmajcoburn) February 24, 2020
After speaking with Fudge, Farah went back to the USADA officials and said, “So I just wanted to come clear, sorry guys, and I did take [L-carnitine] at the time and I thought I didn’t.”
Farah had another case like this recently when he admitted to knowing Jama Aden after repeatedly denying to have a relationship with him. Aden is a former coach who was arrested in Spain in 2016 after being caught with EPO.
“When I got asked and I said in that press conference [in Rio] and said, ‘Yeah, I know him but I don’t know him’, that’s not the reality,” Farah told The Times.
There is no proof that Farah has cheated, but there will likely be much more to learn about his career in the Panorama program released later today.