Britain's Mo Farah, who will be running in the London Marathon on Sunday, is in dispute with fellow distance-running great Haile Gebrselassie for failing to help him after he was robbed at a hotel in Addis Ababa owned by the Ethiopian.
Farah, third last year and facing a monumental challenge to overcome Kenya's world record holder and defending champion Eliud Kipchoge in Sunday's race, said around £2500 -- in four currencies -- two mobile phones and a valuable watch presented to him by his wife were stolen from a locked suitcase in his room while he was out on a training run on his 36 birthday on March 23.
Farah said he got little help from hotel staff in dealing with the issue and even less from Gebrselassie, a national icon in Ethiopia after a stunning track career that earned him two Olympic golds and four world titles over 10,000m and several world records.
"He didn't respond even though that's his hotel," four-times Olympic champion Farah told reporters at the London Marathon launch on Wednesday. Farah was so furious that Gebrselassie ignored his repeated texts and calls that he shared the last he sent, that threatened to publicly shame the Ethiopian.
"I want to inform you that I'm disappointed you have not made any effort to find my stolen money, and especially my watch," he wrote. "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." He signed off: "Sir Mo."
Later on Wednesday Gebrselassie fired back at Farah in a press release, calling his claim of robbery "unproven". Gebrselassie said Farah declined to use a safe box offered to him or give the money to a hotel official for safekeeping.
Gebrselassie, a former world record holder and current president of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation, said the matter was immediately reported to police, who interviewed five hotel employees but decided not to bring charges against any of them. He added that despite a 50 percent discount on the room rate, Farah failed to pay a service bill of £2,313.
"I found today's accusations made by Mo with unproven premises, as an act of defamation on my hard earned reputation and business," he said in a release posted on LetsRun.com. "Following this my lawyers will deal with the matter accordingly," Gebrselassie said.
A spokesperson for Farah told the BBC late on Wednesday that he was disappointed with Gebrselassie's statement.
"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."