Saturday 18 November 2017

'I have nothing to hide' - Mo Farah comes out fighting after medical records published by hackers alongside Rafa Nadal and Justin Rose

Mo Farah. Photo: PA
Mo Farah. Photo: PA

Matt Slater

British Olympic star Mo Farah has shrugged off the leaking of his personal medical records by Russian hackers, insisting he has nothing to hide.

The information, which relates to two therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) he was granted so he could take medicine that would otherwise be banned, was stolen from the World Anti-Doping Agency's data storage system.

Farah is among 66 international athletes, including 17 from Team GB, who have had their TUEs published online by the so-called Fancy Bears, with 26 in Monday's batch.

Spanish tennis great Rafael Nadal and Britain's Olympic golf champion Justin Rose were the other big names released with Farah, joining last week's high-profile cast that included American gymnastics queen Simone Biles, Tour de France winners Chris Froome and Sir Bradley Wiggins, and tennis sisters Serena and Venus Williams.

But just as Wiggins still faces questions over three injections of a powerful corticosteroid that he had not disclosed before, the first of Farah's two TUEs became the immediate focus of the most recent leak as it was for the same drug prescribed to Wiggins - triamcinolone - and it seemed he had previously admitted to only one TUE.

That exemption was for a saline drip and two pain-killers that the 33-year-old Londoner was given after he collapsed in Park City, Utah, where he was training at altitude in 2014.

He said this was his only TUE at a press conference in Birmingham last June when asked about his coach Alberto Salazar, who remains under investigation by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, but it has since emerged that he did mention the 2008 triamcinolone injection a few weeks later in an interview with Sky Sports News.

Responding to questions about this earlier TUE, a spokesperson for Farah said: "As Mo has previously stated, he has got nothing to hide and doesn't have a problem with this or any of his (anti-doping administration and management system) information being released - as evidenced by the fact that he voluntarily shared his blood data with the Sunday Times last year.

"Mo's medical care is overseen at all times by British Athletics and over the course of his long career he has only ever had two TUEs.

"The first was back in 2008 for a one-off anti-inflammatory treatment to an injury. The second was in 2014 when Mo collapsed and was airlifted to hospital for emergency care, which consisted of painkillers and being placed on a drip."

Press Association Sport understands the first TUE - which happened before he started training with Salazar in the US, hence the confusion over his 2015 answer to questions about medical exemptions while working with the coach - was to treat a flare-up of a back injury shortly before a mile race in Newcastle.

Now a five-time world champion, the 33-year-old Farah completed a second straight 5,000-10,000 metres double at the Rio Olympics last month and there is no suggestion he, or any of the other athletes named by the Fancy Bears, have broken any anti-doping rules.

Alongside Farah and Rose, there were six other Team GB members in the fourth batch of hacked data: hockey's Alex Danson, Crista Cullen and Samantha Quek, rowers Helen Glover and Peter Reed, and track cyclist Callum Skinner.

Rose's TUE is for an anti-inflammatory drug he took to treat a back injury that caused him to miss several weeks of action in May and June, while almost all the other British TUEs are for fairly routine asthma and allergy prescriptions.

The 30-year-old Nadal is probably the most eye-catching name among the rest of the athletes named by the Russian cyber terrorists on Monday, with his TUEs being for anti-inflammatory injections in September 2009 and shortly before he withdrew from London 2012 with tendinitis in his knees.

Of the 26, all but American sprinter Ariana Washington won medals in Rio, including four members of the Canadian women's football team that earned bronze medals.

Like the British athletes, the vast majority of these TUEs are for asthma medication and many of these drugs no longer require special permission as they were reclassified by WADA in 2010.

There is one case, however, that highlights one of the key talking points around the TUE process - the right of each athlete for privacy - as it involves an African athlete on long-term medication of a personal and sensitive nature.

Balancing the current calls for more transparency with TUEs against the rights of an individual to keep certain issues private will be one of hardest challenges to resolve if the system is, as appears likely, to be reformed.

Press Association

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