British Olympic hero held as suspected terrorist by US customs

Mohamed Farah of Britain holds his national flag after finishing second in the men's 10,000 metres final at the IAAF World Championships. (Reuters / Kim Kyung Hoon)
Mo Farah, a British citizen who won two gold medals for running during London 2012 was held by US customs when leaving the country to see his family for Christmas, as they suspected he might be a terrorist, because he was born in Somalia.

Farah, a British Olympic hero who has been awarded a CBE by the Queen, was detained for questioning in the US after border officials saw he was born in Somalia.

A CBE stands for Most Excellent Oder of the British Empire and means the person it is awarded to can be called “sir” or “dame”. It is awarded to people who have done something remarkable for the UK, in any profession or walk of life.

Farah, who won the 5,000 and 10,000 meters at London 2012, came to Britain from Somalia with his British born father as a child.

29 year old Farah moved to Portland in the northwestern US state of Oregon last year to work with his coach Alberto Salazar at Nike’s HQ. He was travelling back to spend Christmas with his wife and children. But even after presenting the overzealous officials with his two gold medals didn’t help his cause.

“I couldn’t believe it. Because of my Somali origin I get detained every time I come through US customs. This time I even got my medals out to show who I am, but they wouldn’t have it,” he told the UK newspaper the Sun.

Farah had similar problems with US customs when he tried to get a residency permit to live in Portland. Along with his family he visited Portland as a tourist, before they exited the country to go to Toronto in Canada, only then returning again as authorized residents.

When they returned they were told they were under investigation as a terrorist threat.

“Nike signed it all off and we thought it was going to be straight forward.But when we got there we got a letter telling us we were under investigation as a terrorist threat and we would have to stay away for 90 days,” Farah said.

In desperation he got in touch with Coach Alberto Salazar.

“As luck would have it Alberto has a friend who works for the FBI. This guy happens to be a massive running fan, knew exactly who I was and got it sorted then and there,” said Mo.

The New Year honors award comes after his double Olympic gold and public popularity failed to get him into the top three of the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year.

“I suppose it is a difficult one to get my head round but it doesn’t upset me. It’s because each and every person in the lineup deserved to win, it was such a strong year and Bradley Wiggins is a phenomenal athlete,” said Farah in reference to the cycling superstar who came top in the BBC’s award.

But he was ecstatic at being awarded a CBE, “I’m blown away, so honored,” he said