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Mo Farah endures Plastic Brit dig by team-mate

25th Mar 2015

Mo Farah claims it was during the celebrations for their first and second 10,000m wins in the European Champion ships in Zurich last year that Andy Vernon made a dig about being the true European champion

Nadine Osman

Despite winning Olympic, World and European titles for Britain, Somali born Mo Farah has had to endure the “plastic Brit” charge from the Daily Mail, twitter trolls and far-right groups. But last month Farah revealed that even a GB team-mate has questioned his nationality.

The revelation came after Andy Vernon irritated Farah by suggesting the field for his two-mile race at the Birmingham Indoor Grand Prix was a “joke”. Farah responded by breaking the two-mile indoor world record.

Farah claimed that tensions festered since last year’s European Championships in Zurich, following a comment Vernon made when the pair were celebrating after finishing first and second respectively in the 10,000m.

“We were sitting down together with a number of staff and athletes,” said Farah. “One comment he made, which I didn’t really like, was to say that he should have won the gold. I was like: ‘What, the gold should have been given to you?’ And I was like: ‘Because he was the only European guy?’

“You can’t say something like that. I was just kind of biting my tongue at the time.”

The conversation quickly escalated as the two middle-distance runners aired their views on Twitter

But Vernon accused Farah of playing the racism card adding that Farah had made an “outrageous misrepresentation of the chat” they had – and that he was sorry for any offence caused.

“What I did say was complete tongue-in-cheek,” said Vernon. “I said: ‘I’m European champion.’ That was it. I don’t discard him as British – it’s complete lies. His management team have been very snide at making me out to be a bad guy. He laughed at the time. If he did take it out of context, it wasn’t meant that way and I apologise.”

“I’ve known Mo for 12 years. We weren’t best of friends but we were pals. I was delighted when we finished first and second in the 10,000m and I celebrated with him. There’s nothing more I would like right now than a two-way press conference when we can discuss what happened because what he said is not what I said. He has played the cheap shot. He has played the card. I don’t know what I can do.”

Vernon also claimed that Farah’s tweets had been sent by a third party, adding: “I don’t think he is that kind of person. His Twitter account is managed by someone else.”

Meanwhile Farah has admitted that his tweets, during which he branded his rival “an embarrassment” who had not won anything “decent”, should not have been sent. “I do apologise,” he said. “I shouldn’t have reacted that way. We do have some history in the past, me and Andy. In terms of making it public, that was never the right thing to do. My frustration just got the better of me.

“But with an athlete like him, one I’ve been on the podium with, it was difficult to bite my tongue,” he said. “I couldn’t do it. Andy has a history of disrespecting athletes. You know me and Andy, we’re not best friends, we’ll never be best friends. That’s just how it is. I just have to concentrate on my running and do what I have to do.”

It is not the first time Vernon has been embroiled in a twitter row with a British athlete. Last summer he apologised to Lynsey Sharp, who called him “Andy Vermin” after he claimed she kept going on about winning 800m silver in the Commonwealth Games.

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