Nick Matthew column: Missing a drugs test made me extra vigilant

Mo Farah
Mo Farah

I do have some sympathy for Great Britain’s double Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah.

It emerged last week that Farah had missed two drugs tests before he went on to win gold in the 5,000m and 10,000m at the London 2012 Olympics.

Farah released a statement on Friday denying he had ever taken performance-enhancing drugs after doping allegations were levelled against his coach Alberto Salazar.

What people perhaps do not realise is that it is very easy to miss a drugs test. I am on the “whereabouts” system. If you are an athlete on that system, you have to give details on where you are going to be staying overnight and when you are going to be available for drug testing for at least one hour every day. The rules are if you miss three of the testing slots that you have put down in a 12-month period then that’s the same as a failed test.

I am tested six to eight times at my house every year and probably six times when I am in competition and that has increased in the last few years.

I have only ever missed one drugs test and that was when my wife and I first got together five years ago. I ended up staying at her house in Manchester one night and I had told the drug testers I would be staying at home in Sheffield. I forgot to change it.

My next door neighbour rang me to say that there was somebody sitting outside my door and they had been there a while. I knew immediately who it was.

After missing that one, it puts you on red alert and makes you realise you are close to being on dangerous ground. It made me extra vigilant and I’ve not missed another one since. That gave me a wake-up call.

To be honest, it is a little bit like being on parole at times, but I think it is a good system and is a lot better than it used to be. They do random out-of-competition tests too which is also effective for weeding out people who are trying to trick the system.

There are many high profile athletes who I know who have missed the odd test purely by negligence rather than a deliberate thing. We have all missed tests and I agree with Steve Cram that Farah has been the victim of a witch hunt.

On the other hand, when you’ve forgotten once, a well-known athlete like Farah should be on his guard and updating his whereabouts all the time. This story has been allowed to escalate because Farah showed a little bit of unprofessionalism.

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