Senior figures in British athletics asked Mo Farah to split with controversial coach Alberto Salazar before the World Athletics Championships in London, only for the four-time Olympic champion to refuse.
Concerned by the negative impact Farah’s continued association could have when the American remains the subject of a United States Anti-Doping investigation, a prominent figure in the sport was asked by UK Athletics to meet Farah and raise the issue after he competed in Ostrava on June 27.
Farah instantly dismissed the possibility of dropping the man who masterminded his amazing transformation from also-ran to arguably the finest distance-runner of all time after also clinching six world titles.
Salazar has always maintained his innocence, but Sportsmail can reveal that the American’s position as a distance-running consultant for UKA was secretly terminated in September 2015.
In the build-up to London 2017 there appeared to be a carefully orchestrated campaign to put distance between Farah and Salazar, with reports of a probable separation after the championships amid claims that his involvement with the Briton had been limited for some time.
That, however, was not the case. Asked on Wednesday if Salazar remains Farah’s coach, his representatives told this newspaper: ‘Alberto is still Mo’s coach.’
Clearly a compromise was reached for the World Championships, with Salazar staying away from London to prevent the situation with USADA from over-shadowing Farah’s last major event on the track and his farewell to British fans. Instead, as this newspaper revealed, Salazar sent his son.
UK Athletics had been nervous about their own association with Salazar since doping allegations about the Nike Oregon Project, where Farah trains, surfaced in a joint BBC Panorama-ProPublica report in June 2015.
Following an investigation into the Panorama claims by the Performance Oversight Group, UKA issued a carefully worded statement in September 2015.
‘In July we said that there was no evidence of any impropriety on the part of Mo Farah and no reason to lack confidence in his training programme,’ it said. ‘The Oversight Group have restated that view. They have also found no reason to be concerned about the engagement of other British athletes and coaches with the Oregon Project.’
But the UKA board took the immediate decision to end Salazar’s wider association with British distance-runners, limiting him to working with just Farah.
It meant Salazar still had a contract with UKA. But he was informed that his position as a distance-running consultant, technically unpaid as his salary was paid by UKA sponsors Nike, would not exist while the USADA investigation was ongoing.
When a USADA report on the Oregon Project was leaked by Russian hackers earlier this year, the situation once again became uncomfortable for UKA.
On Wednesday one source claimed that there was a desire to see Farah part company with Salazar before he runs in April’s Virgin London Marathon. Indeed, it was said there had been a power struggle between Marathon boss Dave Bedford and Farah prior to Farah committing to the race.
But the talk that took place in Ostrava, Sportsmail understands, was initiated by the governing body. That led to further erosion in the relationship between Farah and UKA. As we revealed in August, Farah refused to work with head of endurance Barry Fudge in the build-up to London. Fudge worked with Salazar for years.
According to one source on Wednesday, the root of the split was Farah’s frustration with Fudge for devoting more of his time to younger runners such as Andrew Butchart and Laura Muir.
UKA are looking at their future funding plans. If they decide to remove Farah from their list of funded athletes, at least they would sever links with Salazar.