Danny Hall Column: Testing times for Mo Farah, as Jack the lad Grealish hits headlines again

Mo Farah (right) celebrating winning the Men's 10,000m final with the USA's Galen Rupp (left) and coach Alberto Salazar (centre). Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.
Mo Farah (right) celebrating winning the Men's 10,000m final with the USA's Galen Rupp (left) and coach Alberto Salazar (centre). Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.
  • Mo Farah angrily denies any wrongdoing but missed test raises awkward questions
  • Farah’s inspirational story means no-one wants to believe he could do anything wrong
  • Grealish ‘faces more awkward questions’, apparently, for being pictured with a bottle of vodka on holiday
  • The only question I asked when I saw it was,,, so what?
  • Agree or disagree with this week’s column? Leave a comment below or send Danny an email
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Friday night in a city centre bar. The last of the food polished off, beers in hand, conversation turns to Mo Farah when the double 2012 Olympic champion’s face flashes up on Sky News.

And this is news. Farah has unwittingly become embroiled in the centre of a drugs storm, first when training partner Galen Rupp and coach Alberto Salaza were accused of doping in a BBC Panorama documentary.

Farah distanced himself. He flew to the United States to get answers from Salaza. He was shocked, he said.

Then emerged the bombshell; Farah missed two drug tests in the build up to London 2012, and was one strike away from being banned from the Games altogether.

Farah, as he rightly says, has passed what must amount to hundreds of tests during his stellar athletics career. And missing a test doesn’t mean guilt, either. The trouble for Farah is; it arouses suspicion and it far from proves innocence.

Not that you’d think it, from the table chatter amongst us last weekend; two female companions decided he was innocent, another decided Farah ‘wasn’t the type’ to do such a thing. Without having ever met him, of course.

The truth is, no-one wants to believe it.

Farah’s story is almost the sporting equivalent of the American dream; born in Somalia, moves to England aged eight, learns English, learns to run, becomes Olympic, World and European champion in the 5000 metres to 10,000 metres.

He etched his place in folklore with Olympic gold on Super Saturday, when Team GB recorded their most successful medal tally since 1908. No-one who witnessed the scenes when Greg Rutherford won long jump gold, or the roar when Jess Ennis-Hill brought home the bacon in the heptathlon, wants those scenes tainted by scandal.

Our view of a drugs cheat has been tinged slightly yellow by Lance Armstrong’s campaign of bullying and intimidation.

Jack Grealish, on loan at Notts County, in action against Sheffield United

Jack Grealish, on loan at Notts County, in action against Sheffield United

He and Farah are chalk and cheese, night and day, on the surface. But that’s the problem with scandal; it sticks.

What a shame it would be if Farah’s inspirational story and achievements on the track were tainted by any association with a doping coach and shamed team-mate.

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A blog post from current Real Madrid coach Rafa Benitez made interesting reading this week, especially considering the current goings-on at Sheffield Wednesday.

What a shame it would be if Mo Farah’s inspirational story and achievements on the track were tainted by any association with a doping coach and shamed team-mate.

Wednesday’s new owner, Dejphon Chansiri, is apparently keen to implement a continental-style coaching structure at Hillsborough and has started by all-but appointing the club’s first non-British manager, Carlos Carvalhal.

This columnist won’t be the first to wonder about the thinking behind teaming a Portuguese, with 14 clubs to his name since the late 1990s, with Mark Cooper, who led Swindon Town to the play-off final in League One last season.

But, as fellow Telegraph sportswriter Alan Biggs rightly says, Chansiri has paid his money so the choice is very much his to take.

“In England, specifically at Liverpool during my first 3 seasons, the chairman and the chief executive kept me informed of the restrictions and options that we had,” Benitez wrote, back in 2013.

“Later on though, the club structure changed, and over time, ‘business plans’ became more and more important than any football project when it came to making decisions.”

This is football in the 21st Century, folks.

And what of the fabled team spirit that got Wednesday so many decent results under previous boss Stuart Gray?

There is a lot to be said for some continuity and familiarity at times of upheaval, especially if the turnover of players is anything like what is expected this summer.

Oh, and Benitez? The latest word is that Madrid president Florentino Perez wants to put him on a diet before the start of the La Liga season. He’ll know all about restrictions at the Bernabéu, no doubt.

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Headline of the week? Courtesy, once again, of the Daily Mail’s sports section - which sometimes feels like a parody of itself - this week: ‘Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish faces fresh questions after being pictured with £1,000 bottle of Ciroc Vodka in Marbella’.

Grealish, aged 19, was pictured recently laid out in the street in Tenerife and a picture has since ‘emerged’ - funny how that happens, isn’t it? - showing him with a large bottle of vodka on holiday.

Er, and that’s it.

Perhaps the only question this story should generate is: why on earth can’t we leave the young lad alone to enjoy his life, on holiday?

Just imagine what the headlines would be like if he ended up missing a routine drugs test...