Four-time Olympic champion Mo Farah was involved in an altercation at Haile Gebrselassie’s hotel but was the victim of an attack, his coach says.
Farah and Gebrselassie are involved in a dispute over an alleged theft at a hotel belonging to the Ethiopian athletics great in Addis Ababa.
On Thursday, Gebrselassie said Farah “punched and kicked” a husband and wife during the Briton’s stay this year.
Farah’s coach Gary Lough said he was acting in self-defence.
Gebrselassie made further claims on Thursday that his falling out with Farah stems from when he would not allow Jama Aden, a coach who was arrested as part of an anti-doping operation in Spain in 2016, to enter the hotel.
A spokesperson for Farah said Aden “has never trained Mo” and that the allegation had “no basis” and is “not true”.
The alleged altercation
Lough, who was present during the incident, told the Evening Standard that a man had approached Farah, 36, and his training partner Abi Bashir in the gym and that Farah had been threatened with dumbbells.
“I turn round and this guy comes over threateningly as if he’s going to attack Bashir and Mo tries to defend Bashir and hits the other guy,” said Lough.
“So, they’re grappling a little bit and the woman comes running and Mo turns round not knowing who it is and she got hit on the arm.
“She had two 5kg weights in her hands and was threatening to throw them at him.
“So I shout, ‘Put those things down or you’ll be in jail.’ Hotel security did nothing.”
On Wednesday, at a media preview event for Sunday’s London Marathon, Farah said that he had money, a watch and two phones taken from his room on 23 March.
He added that he is “disappointed” that Gebrselassie “couldn’t do nothing” to help retrieve his items.
Gebrselassie, 46, responded in a statement on Wednesday, accusing Farah of “blackmail” and “defaming” his reputation and business.
The two-time Olympic 10,000m champion said the alleged theft was reported and that five of the hotel’s employees were investigated but released without charge after three weeks is custody, adding that police “found nothing on the reported robbery case”.
Gebrselassie also claimed that hotel staff reported “disgraceful conduct” by Farah and his entourage and that he was reported to the police for “attacking a married athlete in the gym”.
He said said a criminal charge was dropped because of his own mediation role.
On Thursday, Gebrselassie told The Guardian that Farah had confronted the man.
“Farah said to him, ‘Why are you following me?’ But the guy said he wasn’t – and that he was just doing his work,” said Gebrselassie.
“Immediately Farah punched them and kicked them by foot. Especially the husband. There were lots of witnesses.”
However, Ethiopian Sisay Tsegaye said that he and his wife were involved in the altercation with Farah but that the Briton did not hit his wife and they had now “found peace”.
“A brawl erupted inside the gym,” said Tsegaye.
“I think Mo was thinking I was using his training regime to train other people. But in fact we were using videos downloaded from YouTube.
“When a brawl erupted, Mo kicked me around my neck. It was a minor hit. This caused disturbance inside the gym. Police came to the scene but it was resolved with mediation. But he never touched my wife.
“Now I’m on good terms with Mo. We have found peace four days after this incident.”
Gebrselassie, who won four world titles, also said Farah was given a 50% discount on his hotel rates, but left without paying his service bill of 81,000 Ethiopian Birr (£2,170).
In response to Gebrselassie’s claims on Wednesday, a spokesperson for Farah said: “Mo is disappointed with this statement and the continued reluctance by the hotel and its owner to take responsibility for this robbery.
“Mo disputes all of these claims, which are 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 (there was no safe as it was faulty, and Mo requested a new one).
“Police reports confirm the incident and the hotel admitted responsibility and were in contact with Mo’s legal advisor.
“The hotel even offered to pay Mo the amount stolen, only to withdraw the offer when he prematurely left the hotel and moved to other accommodation due to security concerns.
“Despite many attempts to discuss this issue privately with Mr Gebrselassie, he did not respond but now that he has, we would welcome him or his legal team getting in touch so that this matter can be resolved.”
Jama Aden claims
Gebrselassie claimed on Thursday he had previously refused Aden entry to the hotel, leading to a dispute with Farah.
Aden, the former coach of 2015 world 1500m champion Genzebe Dibaba, was arrested after police raided his hotel room in Sabadell, north of Barcelona in June 2016. The investigation is ongoing.
“His grudge against me started when I denied access to Jama Aden to the hotel and forbidden access,” Gebrselassie told the Telegraph.
“I was head of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation at the time. He was angry with me at the time and looking for ways to revenge for that.”
Gebrselassie was Ethiopian Athletics Federation president between November 2016 and November 2018.
In 2016, British Athletics said Aden had been “unofficial facilitator” for Farah when he trained in Ethiopia for a week in 2015 and had only called out lap times for the Briton.
“To be clear Jama Aden has never trained Mo and this allegation along with many of the others levied by Haile Gerbreselassie and his hotel employees today have no basis and are not true,” said a spokesperson for Farah on Thursday.
‘An unseemly spat’ – Cram
Former 1500m world champion and BBC commentator Steve Cram said it is “an unseemly spat” between Farah and Gebrselassie but that it would not affect the Briton in his bid to win the London Marathon on Sunday.
“Mo had something he really wanted to get off his chest,” said Cram.
“He knew he had an audience and decided it was the right time to say what he said about what had happened in Ethiopia.
“It might not have been the best timing but he felt it was the platform to do it.”
Cram said he was hopeful that the “two great champions” could “settle their differences in whatever way and the thing doesn’t escalate”.
“Inevitably for the media it’s a great story,” he added.
“It is a distraction from the weekend – we’re all getting excited about Mo versus Eliud Kipchoge – another great champion, so I hope by Sunday that’s what we’ll concentrate on.”