Sunday 22 October 2017

Andy Vernon accuses Mo Farah of an 'outrageous misrepresentation' in bitter dispute

Row: Mo Farah has become engaged in a war of words with his Team GB teammate Andy Vernon Photo: GETTY
Row: Mo Farah has become engaged in a war of words with his Team GB teammate Andy Vernon Photo: GETTY

Guy Aspin

The feud between Mo Farah and his Great Britain team-mate Andy Vernon escalated on Friday night when the double Olympic champion's claims that his rival questioned his nationality were described as "complete lies".

Farah, who beat Vernon to 10,000 metres gold at the European Championships in Zurich last summer, alleged his team-mate suggested he did not deserve the title as he was not European.

Farah made the claims when he was questioned on Friday about a Twitter spat the pair had earlier in the week.

The 31-year-old, who was born in Mogadishu in Somalia before moving to Britain as a child, has apologised for the social media row, but admitted their past contributed to his frustrations boiling over.

Vernon initially admitted making the comments in Zurich, but insisted they were intended as "a joke" among a group of people "having a laugh" and apologised if they were taken out of context.

But, after reading in full Farah's remarks, he labelled them "an outrageous misrepresentation" of their "tongue-in-cheek" chat and claimed they were designed to portray him in a bad light.

Farah is in Birmingham ahead of a tilt at an indoor world best time over two miles at Saturday's Sainsbury's Indoor Grand Prix, but the build-up to the meeting has been overshadowed by this row.

Asked about the pair's history, Farah said: "It happened in the European Championships in Zurich where he came second in the race I won.

"We were sitting down together and there were a number of staff and athletes there too. One comment he made, which I didn't really like, was to say that he should have won the gold.

"I was like, 'What, the gold should have been given to you?'. And I was like, because he was the only European guy? You can't say something like that. I was kind of biting my tongue at the time.

"I don't know what he meant, but at that point it hurt me. But I moved on. That was private."

Vernon reacted furiously to the accusations.

He said in an interview with BBC Radio Solent: "It's an outrageous misrepresentation of the chat we had at the Europeans. What I did say was completely tongue-in-cheek - in a jokey environment, we were all having fun, high spirits at the Europeans. It was after our race and I, in a joking way, said, 'Mo, I'm European champion'.

"That was it. I don't know where he's got that I don't discard (regard) him as British, you don't deserve to have gold, you should give it to me - it's complete lies."

Vernon added he was "delighted" when the pair finished first and second in Europe, calling it a "great moment for Britain" and saying he was the first to congratulate Farah.

"It's annoyed me that he's come out and said this, it really has," Vernon said.

Vernon said he had tried to contract Farah's management team to apologise if the athlete was unhappy with what was said and called for a joint press conference so the pair could "discuss what happened".

Vernon added: "He has played the cheap shot. He has played the card. I don't know what I can do.

"If that one remark that I did make in jest was so terrible all I can do is apologise, I didn't mean any offence by it."

The pair's feud became public on Tuesday when they were involved in a war of words on social media, Farah labelling his team-mate "an embarrassment" after Vernon criticised the lack of high-level competition to face Farah in Birmingham.

Farah, who with three world crowns to go with his double Olympic success is arguably Britain's greatest ever athlete, added on Friday: "I do apologise. I should never come out publicly and say some things.

"With an athlete like him, one I've been on the podium with, it was difficult to bite my tongue. Probably the best thing to do at the time was to bite my tongue, but I couldn't do it."

A British Athletics spokesperson said the national body "would be talking to Andy about the comment he made and reminding him of his responsibilities as a British team member".

Farah will aim to let his legs do the talking at the Barclaycard Arena on Saturday as he runs his first race of the year.

The Londoner, who only returned from altitude training in Ethiopia on Thursday, could go after Kenenisa Bekele's world best time of eight minutes 4.35 seconds, which was set at the same meeting seven years ago.

Farah, who holds the European best of 8mins 8.07secs and will be up against the likes of 40-year-old Bernard Lagat in Birmingham, said this week's row had given him extra motivation.

"It definitely has fired me up," Farah said. "What I do best is go out there and run and represent my country and to continue to win medals. 2015 is about making that bright start, then continuing through the summer."

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