The performance director of UK Athletics warned the UKA board that his position would be “untenable” if they forced Mo Farah to sever his relationship from Alberto Salazar in the wake of a Panorama programme in 2015, an independent report has revealed.
Neil Black, then performance director of UKA, told the UKA board that he “greatly admired” Salazar and had seen no evidence to support allegations that Farah’s coach had broken anti-doping rules.
The report by the leading sports barrister John Mehrzad, which was set up to examine UKA’s internal inquiry set up after the Panorama programme, found that Black and Barry Fudge, the head of endurance, felt “so strongly” about the issue, that they indicated that their positions would be “untenable”’ if there was a knee-jerk severing of the relationship with Salazar by the Board.
“Having then been informed of that position, some on the then UKA board felt that the stance taken by those individuals was ‘in effect blackmail’,” Mehrzad writes in his 130-page report into a 2015 audit, led by UKA’s performance oversight committee, which found there was “no reason” to be concerned about any British athlete or coaches involved with the Oregon Project in the wake of an explosive Panorama investigation into Salazar.
“However, those performance figures deny that to have been the case. Rather, they believed their position to be very straight-forward: their ability to deliver against medal-targets set by UK Sport would be hampered if Farah was forced against his will to split from Salazar.
“If that was the decision taken by the Board, they felt the central performance goals of their own respective roles and responsibilities would be fundamentally undermined.”
The independent review came after Salazar was banned for four years in October by Usada for “orchestrating and facilitating prohibited doping conduct”. Salazar has since said he will appeal against the ban and no NOP athlete, including Farah, has ever been found to have taken a banned substance.