Two Olympic track and field greats – Mo Farah and Haile Gebrselassie – have become embroiled in a spat after the Briton alleged he had been robbed during a stay in the Ethiopian Olympic gold medalist’s hotel in Addis Ababa in March 2019.
During an April 24 news conference ahead of Sunday’s London Marathon, Farah told reporters money and a watch were stolen from a hotel room in Yaya Village, an athletic training center in the Ethiopian capital.
Four-time Olympic champion Farah, who finished third in the London Marathon last year, had been staying at the hotel in March as part of his final preparations for his home race.
“The robbery happened on my birthday, when I went for an early morning Sunday run,” the 36-year-old Farah told reporters.
“We left at 5.30 a.m. with my coach and training partners and I gave my key to reception so they could clean. When I came back about 4.30 p.m. I noticed my bag was open. I was like: ‘Sh*t, I left my bag open.’ But I then saw it was locked and had been broken into,” Farah said at the London news conference, in comments widely reported by leading UK media.
Gebrselassie responded to Farah’s allegations by issuing a press release, which included a transcript of an April 22 text conversation he said he had with Farah.
In the message, Farah told the Ethiopian that he was “disappointed that you have not made any effort to find my stolen money and especially my watch,” which the Briton said was an anniversary gift from his wife.
“I have tried to contact you by telephone several times,” the text continues.”Know that I am not responsible for what I say during the press moment in London and what influence will it have on your personality and that of your business [sic].”
Gebrselassie, a previous marathon world record holder who won two Olympic gold medals for the 10,000 meters, said in a press release sent to CNN that all residents at his hotel are offered safes for cash over the value of $350 – which he said Farah refused. Gebrselassie said the hotel was not legally liable for the theft as a result.
Gebrselassie said that the reported robbery was handed over to the police, with five employees being taken into custody before being released. Ethiopian police did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment about the alleged theft.
“The police were doing all their investigation thoroughly, but found nothing on the reported robbery case,” added Gebrselassie.
The 46-year-old Gebrselassie then accused Farah of “disgraceful conduct” at the hotel, including leaving a $3,000 unpaid bill despite a 50% discount on his stay.
In a statement sent to CNN, Farah’s representative said that the British athlete is “disappointed with this statement and the continued reluctance by the hotel and its owner to take responsibility for this robbery.”
The statement continued: “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.”