Athletics icons Mo Farah and Haile Gebrselassie are locked in a bitter dispute just days away from the London Marathon with claims of robbery and an unpaid hotel bill at the heart of the row.
Britain’s quadruple Olympic champion Farah, aiming to win Sunday’s race, wrapped up his pre-marathon press conference with claims that Gebrselassie had made no effort to recover items stolen from his room at the Ethiopian’s hotel near Addis Ababa.
Farah was staying at the hotel in late March as part of training for Sunday’s prestigious race.
Gebrselassie – a two-time Olympic champion – hit back by accusing Farah of not paying his heavily discounted hotel bill and claimed in a statement to media that only thanks to his intervention had an assault charge brought by a fellow guest against the Briton been dropped.
Farah, in hardly ideal preparations for taking on world record holder and defending champion Eliud Kipchoge on Sunday, said on Wednesday that around £2,500 pounds ($3,200) had been stolen on March 23 – his 36th birthday – along with a watch given to him by his wife Tania.
Farah denied Gebrselassie’s accusations, saying they were an effort to “distract from the situation, where members of his hotel staff used a room key and stole money and items from Mo Farah’s room”.
“Someone’s got the key from reception, opened it up, took my money, took my nice watch that my wife got me, and two phones,” said Farah.
“The watch was sentimental -– it can’t be replaced.”
– ‘Act of blackmailing’ –
Farah, who finished third in last year’s race but has since set a new European record in landing the prestigious Chicago Marathon, also revealed the contents of a text message he sent Gebrselassie when he lost patience at not having his pleas for help answered.
“I want to inform you that I’m disappointed you have not made any effort to find my stolen money, and especially my watch,” the text read.
“I have tried to contact you by telephone several times.
“Know that I am not responsible for what I say during the press conference in London and what influence it will have on your personality and your business. Greetings, Sir (he has been ennobled by Queen Elizabeth II) Mo.”
Gebrselassie, who also won four outdoor world titles in his illustrious career, hit back claiming the text message looked like “an act of blackmailing and accusation” and added there had been “multiple reports of disgraceful conduct” at the hotel levelled against Farah and his entourage.
Chief among his complaints against the Somalia-born naturalised Briton – a six-time world outdoor champion – was an alleged assault on another athlete in the hotel gym.
“He was reported to the police for attacking an athlete in the gym,” said the 46-year-old Ethiopian.
“But due to my mediation role, the criminal charge was able to be dropped.”
Gebrselassie denied the alleged robbery had been taken lightly, saying that five hotel staff were held in custody for three weeks while it was investigated.
“They were later released by legal bodies after they were found clear,” said Gebrselassie.
“The police were doing all their investigation thoroughly, but found nothing on the reported robbery case.”