BBC investigative programme says Olympic champion changed his account relating to L-carnitine injections before the 2014 London Marathon
BBC’s Panorama has seen investigations correspondent Mark Daly raise fresh questions over Mo Farah’s relationship with the now banned coach Alberto Salazar and make claims that Farah repeatedly denied to US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) that two days before the 2014 London Marathon he received injections of the controversial legal supplement L-carnitine.
According to the programme, Farah told USADA officials during an interview that he did not have the injection but then, after seeing UK Athletics (UKA) head of endurance Barry Fudge, who had earlier been interviewed by the agency, Farah went back to see the officials to tell them he had in fact had the injection.
A transcript of Farah’s USADA interview, obtained by Panorama, appears to show that Farah changed his account to investigators, saying he had forgotten about the L-carnitine injections.
The doctor that administered the injection, Rob Chakraverty, plus UKA coaches Fudge and Neil Black, the governing body’s former performance director, were also featured in the programme and emails showed they raised concerns about the injections but went ahead anyway, with Fudge travelling to Switzerland to pick up the supplement.
According to the programme, they initially questioned whether the injection, while legal, was within the “spirit of the sport”.
Salazar, who was the former head coach at the Nike Oregon Project, received his four-year ban last year but is appealing it.
Salazar has denied any wrongdoing, while there is no suggestion that Farah has violated any rules.
Farah’s lawyers told Panorama: “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.
“It is not against [WADA] rules to take [L-carnitine] as a supplement within the right quantities. Mr Farah … is one of the most tested athletes in the UK, if not the world, and has been required to fill in numerous doping forms. He is a human being and not a robot. That is relevant … if in fact something was missed from the form. Interviews are not memory tests.”
The Panorama programme includes interviews with Kara and Adam Goucher, Toni Minichiello and Damian Collins, who led a parliamentary select committee inquiry into doping in sport.
UKA said after the programme that they “operate an absolute zero tolerance policy towards the use of banned performance enhancing drugs and methods and toward any and all doping practices within sport”.
The governing body’s statement added: “We recognise and take seriously the issues raised by USADA’s ruling and fully supported their investigation.
“L-carnitine is a legal and scientifically legitimate food supplement that can be used by endurance athletes across a number of sports. It is not a prohibited substance and has previously been used in drink form. Over the past few years, a small number of British athletes have used L-carnitine, and, to our knowledge, all doses and methods of administration have been fully in accordance with WADA protocol.
“All the information, emails and documentation relating to the use of L-carnitine prior to the 2014 London Marathon were voluntarily handed to USADA in 2015. This was also covered in full during UKA’s detailed testimonies to the Parliamentary Select Committee in 2017.
“Both make clear the dosage provided to Mo Farah was well within the 50ml limit permitted by WADA. UKA personnel took steps throughout to ensure that full and honest accounts of the process were given in all forums. Any suggestion to the contrary is false and misleading.
“The report published following the Select Committee Hearings stated the Committee noted the progress made by UKA in medical record keeping since 2014 – a key recommendation from UKA’s own investigation conducted in 2015. The core recommendations from this investigation were published in January 2016 and can be found here.
“Since USADA’s ruling in October 2019, UKA has commissioned an independent QC-led Review to look at how the organisation responded to the Nike Oregon Project issues in 2015 and 2017, the recommendations made at the time and subsequent related decisions made by the UKA Board at those respective times.
“The independent review will also set out any recommendations to assist UKA to ensure its future governance and assurance framework is robust.”
Nicole Sapstead, UK Anti-Doping CEO, said: “We watched BBC’s Panorama programme with interest, and would welcome the opportunity to review any additional material that Panorama have acquired during the course of its investigation.
“We thank the Panorama team for their efforts. The programme is another example of the importance of investigative journalism regarding integrity matters in sport.
“UKAD supported USADA with their investigation into the Nike Oregon Project. We believe USADA’s investigation was extensive and robust.
“If anyone has information that could be of interest to UKAD and its investigations on any matter, we urge them to contact us.”
The BBC Panorama programme comes a few days after an exclusive interview with Farah was published in The Times which included comment from the Olympic gold medallist on topics such as his relationships with coaches Salazar and Jama Aden.