THE CIR­CUS IS IN TOWN

Mo Farah band­wagon rolls into Glas­gow with dop­ing still top of the agenda

The Herald - Herald Sport - - FRONT PAGE - STE­WART FISHER

FROM the out­skirts of Ad­dis Ababa to the banks of the Clyde, the Mo Farah cir­cus is un­mis­take­able. It swept into Glas­gow with a vengeance yes­ter­day ahead of the mul­ti­ple world and Olympic gold medal­ist’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Glas­gow Grand Prix at the Emi­rates Arena to­day.

Since he was last spot­ted north of the bor­der, run­ning and win­ning at the Great In­ter­na­tional X Coun­try in Ed­in­burgh, Farah has been squeez­ing in six weeks’ of al­ti­tude train­ing as a guest at Haile Ge­brse­lassie’s Yaya Africa Ath­letes Vil­lage out­side the Ethiopian cap­i­tal.

If it al­lowed him to plead ig­no­rance of a sort about the lat­est dop­ing de­bates sweep­ing the sport, namely the fact Kenyan ath­let­ics had been placed on a ‘watch-list’ of na­tions at risk of breach­ing Wada’s code and could the­o­ret­i­cally be banned from in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion, in­clud­ing the Olympics in Rio, if non-com­pli­ant, he none­the­less couldn’t re­sist a small aside about it.

“I’ve been away at camp,” said Farah. “So I haven’t heard too much. But when you come back, you get briefed. If Kenya’s not in it, then it makes things eas­ier for me. You don’t want to wish it on ath­letes who haven’t done any­thing wrong. But as a coun­try, they just have to fol­low the rules. If they can’t fol­low that rule, then tough on them.”

Farah, of course, is no stranger to th­ese sort of de­bates, hav­ing stood by coach Al­berto Salazar af­ter an au­dit set up by UK Ath­let­ics found no ev­i­dence of wrong­do­ing amid al­le­ga­tions that the Ore­gon pro­ject coach had vi­o­lated a se­ries of anti-dop­ing rules. A tweet ear­lier this week from US ath­lete Kara Goucher said that “jus­tice was com­ing” in re­la­tion to that mat­ter, but a smil­ing Farah would say only: “I haven’t heard any­thing about it. It was last year. We’ve moved on.”

If that was the clos­est thing to con­tro­versy yes­ter­day, Farah cheer­fully ad­mit­ted that he can no longer re­main incog­nito even in the re­mote dis­tricts of East Africa. “The peo­ple are so nice there, even though they know I’m run­ning for GB and they’re prob­a­bly think­ing ‘that’s the guy who beats all our guys’,” he said. “I’ll be out in the park and they say ‘there’s Mo’ or ‘there’s baldy’ – which is funny.

“I’ve al­ways gone to train at al­ti­tude,” he added. “I’ve been all around the world. I’ve been to Aus­tralia, Ethiopia and Kenya and right now I pre­fer Ethiopia. It’s sim­ple and it’s go­ing pretty well there. I get on well with the ath­letes, but you’re there to do a job and get on with it. I got on well with the food too. I love a good curry and it’s sim­i­lar to curry. It has a few dif­fer­ent spices. So I like Ethiopian food.”

Whether sta­ples of the Scot­tish diet such as Irn Bru and hag­gis also agree with him, just as he did pre-Lon­don, Farah has made Scot­land a key part of his prepa­ra­tion for the awe­some chal­lenge of re­tain­ing his Olympic 5000m and 10,000m ti­tles. He might have skipped three high pro­file com­pe­ti­tions in Scot­land in the past, in­clud­ing the 2014 Com­mon­wealth Games, but he is mak­ing up for lost time in 2016, and will be run­ning the same 3000m event in which he broke the Bri­tish record on his first visit to the city.

“Glas­gow is very ex­cit­ing,” said Farah. “I re­mem­ber it was this par­tic­u­lar meet the first time I broke the Bri­tish record of 7:40 held by John May­ock. So I do have a great mem­ory of Glas­gow. The crowd do get be­hind you. Hope­fully to­mor­row they’ll get be­hind us and it’s go­ing to be ex­cit­ing for me to see where I am, do well in the race and then go home.” This time his sights are set rather higher, or should that be lower. In­deed, had he more in­door races un­der his belt he could well have been tar­get­ing the world record for that dis­tance, the 7.24.90 set by Kenya’s Daniel Ko­man back in 1998 in Bu­dapest.

“To be hon­est, it would have been nice to have had a few races and then see what I can do,” he said. “I don’t think I’m ready for world records. So I’m not go­ing to say I can. The world record has stood for many years, no-one’s come close to that, [Ke­nenisa] Bekele or Haile. So it’s not in my mind.”

As much as he still loves com­pe­ti­tion, Farah, soon to be 33, gives a con­vinc­ing im­pres­sion of an ath­lete in his fi­nal laps when it comes to the track. He finds that even he can­not train in quite the same pun­ish­ing man­ner he did be­fore with­out rest pe­ri­ods, while be­ing apart from his wife Ta­nia, his daugh­ters Aisha and Amani, step daugh­ter Rhi­anna and new­born son Hus­sein is be­com­ing an in­creas­ing grind.

This oc­ca­sional vis­i­tor to the Royal Box at Wim­ble­don feels that Andy Mur­ray will have to ad­just to the same ten­sions since the birth of his daugh­ter Sophia, but wants his fam­ily with him in Rio and quite frankly doesn’t give a fig about con­cerns around the Zika virus.

“I haven’t seen my kids since Jan­uary,” said an emo­tional Farah. “So it’s ex­cit­ing to get on a flight and see my kids and hope­fully I can spend a bit of time with them and then come back for

If Kenya’s not in it, then it makes things eas­ier for me. You don’t wish it on ath­letes who haven’t done any­thing wrong. But as a coun­try, they have to fol­low the rules

the world half marathon. “The Olympics is where it’s at,” he added. “And I want to have my fam­ily with me no mat­ter what be­cause one of the best things from Lon­don was see­ing my wife and fam­ily.

“It was just in­cred­i­ble and hope­fully they’ll be there.

“It’s dif­fi­cult be­ing a father. I’ve got four kids and some­times I’m away for six weeks, even more. It’s hard. But that’s what mo­ti­vates me. I’m work­ing for my kids.

“When I go out there I try and think about it. Andy is a great ath­lete and I’m sure he’ll get used to be­ing a father.

“It’s not easy. But I know one day my kids will look back and say: ‘my Dad did this and that’. That will be of my proud­est mo­ments.”

Pic­ture: Getty

CEN­TRE STAGE: Mo Farah at­tends a press con­fer­ence in the Crowne Plaza Ho­tel, prior to the Glas­gow In­door Grand Prix.

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