Four-time Olympic champion Sir Mo Farah has credited his faith and self-belief for getting him through the times when his integrity was most questioned during his career.
The 34-year-old Somali-born British runner’s former coach Alberto Salazar was accused of allegedly breaking anti-doping rules to boost the performances of his athletes in 2015.
Although there was no implication of any wrongdoing by Farah, who won 5,000-metre and 10,000-metre gold doubles at both London 2012 and Rio 2016, he felt accused by association and issued statements protesting his innocence. He has since split with Salazar and switched from track athletics to marathon running after last year’s World Championships.
Speaking at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai on Sunday, he was asked if he had found it difficult to cope when his integrity was under scrutiny.
“Not at all,” he replied. “As long as you believe in yourself and believe in your team and do the right thing, that’s one thing I do know is that no matter what happens, I’m a big believer.
“I was brought up as a Muslim, and know there is something out there. As long as you have that, have faith, have your Imam and believe in yourself. You don’t dress a certain way just to please someone, you have inner belief if that makes sense.”
Part of that inner strength, he said, came from his poor upbringing in Somalia before he moved to the UK at the age of eight. “There will be many challenges in our lives no matter what we do,” he added. “Growing up in Somalia enabled me to think strongly and be strong minded and appreciate stuff, knowing there will be challenges and you can overcome it.
“In general people in Africa are stronger because they are having to deal with it, and unless we are put in that situation we don’t know.
“As a sportsman I love what I do and it comes with fame and other stuff and you have to deal with it. It’s important to be a role model to so many younger kids and show them the right path and what is possible.”
On his move into marathon running, he said: “People would think he’s retired and is going to take it easy but I’ve actually gone the opposite and I’m going to be running 26.2 miles (42-km), which is quite a long way and a different training compared to what I’m used to on track.
“I’m going to do far more longer sessions and far more intervals and I’m going to be on my feet longer than I did.
“I had a long career on the track and really enjoyed representing my country and winning medals. It then got to the stage where I had won everything and needed a new challenge and I wanted to try the marathon before it was too late and see if I could be successful in the marathon.”