by Robert Johnson
June 26, 2014
8-time US road champion and US 25k American record holder Mo Trafeh is retiring from the sport of running less than two months after his 29th birthday as earlier this year he was caught at an airport with the performance-enhancing drug EPO. Trafeh admits to having purchased EPO and having it in his possession but claims he never actually used it.
Last week, LetsRun.com received the following statement from Trafeh via Trafeh’s California-based lawyer Jonathan LaCour.
As an elite runner, former U.S. Road Champion, and proud-USA representative, it is with great sadness that I announce my retirement. As many of you might recall, I had many great years of injury-free and successful running that allowed me to acquire several road racing and track & field wins. Unfortunately, and as many elite athletes have experienced before me, a number of frustrating and serious injuries have plagued my ability to train, race, and remain competitive over the course of these past eighteen months. Against my better judgment and after hours of discussions, I made an unwise decision to purchase EPO, a USOC banned substance, so that I could train in effort to return to my previous form. During my return trip home after purchasing the EPO, I was stopped by the United States Anti-Doping Agency and they discovered the banned substance. Since that time, they have initiated formal proceedings against me and threatened to impose a lifetime ban.
I would like to publicly state that since 2008 I have been one of the most sought after targets in our sport and have never failed a drug test. I was stopped before I was able to use EPO, I never previously used EPO and if I had the financial resources to fight this case, I am confident that I would prevail. Unfortunately, our sport does not provide the wealth that some other sports do, and for the sake of the financial future of my family, I must simply retire and take whatever steps are necessary to provide a stable and secure life. Although I would have loved to return to my old form and compete in the 2016 Olympics for the United States, it was not meant to be.
Track & Field has been the sole focus of my life for a long time. I will miss the moments of triumph and joy, the friends I made along the way, and the ability to represent my country as a first generation American trying to live his dream.
The staff at LetsRun.com felt the statement left many questions unanswered. We told Mr. LaCour, whom we had previously talked to for about an hour, that if Trafeh’s goal was some sort of redemption in the running community – which LaCour had told us was very dear to Trafeh as he’d dedicated more than half of his life to running – then we believed he should come clean and answer our questions.
We emailed Mr. LaCour a set of questions for Trafeh to answer (see below). LaCour got back to us today and said Trafeh wouldn’t be responding to them right now as he found the questions to be “insulting”. He told us that Trafeh had spoken to other media outlets who would be coming out with stories on Trafeh in the near future. Also, later this week or perhaps early next week, USADA is likely to conclude its case against Trafeh and announce a formal punishment.
Below you will find the questions we emailed LaCour to give to Trafeh as well as LaCour’s response.
Here are the key parts of an email we sent to Trafeh’s lawyer last week after having a long conversation with him and getting Trafeh’s statement:
Thanks for sending me the proof. Here are the questions I’d like to ask Mo over the phone or in person….
I truly believe if he is issuing this statement because running is something important to him that the best option is to come 100% clean – name, names, etc. He will then leave the sport in a better spot than he left it. The story we are getting now is just impossible for the average person to believe.
1. Just to be clear, you are asserting that you never used EPO or any illegal drug during your running career. You simply got caught the first time your purchased it and were about to take it. That’s your claim, right?
2. You do realize that your story line is something that most people will find hard to believe, right?
After all, your statement even says you were one of the “‘most sought after targets” for years. That indicates that USADA and/or WADA may have been targeting you. Many die-hard running fans were also doubting your performances long before this as well ( https://www.letsrun.com/forum/
So your performances were doubted by many in the running community for years, by officials, fans and coaches alike, you get caught with EPO in your possession and you expect people to believe you never used PEDs? Do you understand how hard that is going to be for most people to accept?
4. Your statement reads in part, “If I had the financial resources to fight this case, I am confident that I would prevail.” What does this mean? Prevail in what sense? You are not denying that you had EPO in your possession which is a four year ban, are you?
(Editor’s note: Trafeh’s attorney admits to us that Trafeh had purchased EPO and had it in his possession when stopped at an airport. USADA was then called and interviewed him that day. He says that fighting a case like this is very expensive.)
5. You said after hours of discussions, you decided to purchase EPO. Who were those discussions with?
6. What day were you busted? What airport were you at and where were you flying? Did a customs official bust you or did WADA/USADA? Do you think they were tipped off by the seller of EPO? It seems odds to me they’d catch you right after you just purchased it.
6. Where did you purchase EPO? How much did you purchase? How much did it cost? Do you have a receipt that I can see if it was done online? Can I have the seller’s contact info? How did you know how much to buy? How did you know to purchase it from there? How did you know how to use EPO?
7. Did you ever see illegal drug usage by others while training in the US or abroad? (Editor’s note: The Moroccan born Trafeh lives and trains often in Morocco). If so where and who was using it? If not, did anyone ever talk to you about possibly using illegal drugs during your career even if you never actually saw it?
8. How prevalent do you think PED usage is at the top levels of the sport?
9. Given Bernard Lagat’s past history with an EPO ‘A’ sample, did you see any illegal drug usage while at Arizona?
(LetsRun.com Editor’s note: Mr. LaCour had previously told us over the phone that Trafeh had seen zero drug usage during his short stint at Arizona (Trafeh left after a short while) but we had this in there as we figured people were unfortunately going to speculate.)
Mr. LaCour’s response today:
An announcement will be made by USADA by week’s end. If you would like some questions answered, I would be more than happy to take them. The story will be in the LA Times, San Gabriel Tribune, and NY Times next week.
Very truly yours,
Note: I’m sure the casual fan may be confused as to how Trafeh, who admits to having purchased and possessing EPO, is “confident” that he’d prevail if he had “the financial resources to fight this case.”
A little insight on that: Mr. LaCour explained that, similar to how a prosecutor charges a defendant with just about everything imaginable, USADA kind of does the same thing and LaCour/Trafeh felt they had a good case against some of the charges. Among other things, Trafeh was charged with possession, use, attempted use, trafficking, etc. LaCour felt they’d prevail on charges such as use since Trafeh had never tested positive.
Thus instead of facing a potential lifetime ban on the high end, it could be reduced to something much less. But fighting the case would cost more than $30,000, and Trafeh made less than $30,000 from running in 2013.
One last thing to note. Trafficking probably doesn’t mean what you think it does. I assumed it meant distribution but it simply means the transportation of drugs according to the WADA code.
We’ll have much more on this in the coming days, including analysis but wanted to get this out there late at night (early in the morning).
Born: May 1, 1985 in Morocco. Moved to US in 1999.
Coach: Mainly self-coached throughout his career.
1,500 Meters 3:42.36 Radès 9 Jun 2012
3,000 Meters 7:58.59 Gent 13 JUL 2008
5,000 Meters 13:32.99 Radés 16 JUN 2012
10 Kilometers 28:18 Jacksonville, FL 13 MAR 2010
15 Kilometers 42:51 New York, NY 21 MAR 2010
20 Kilometers 57:46 New York, NY 21 MAR 2010
Half Marathon 1:00:39 New York, NY 21 MAR 2010
25 Kilometers 1:14:18 Grand Rapids, MI 11 MAY 2013
Marathon 2:11:41 Fukuoka 02 DEC 2012
US Titles: Note, we could only find 7 US titles for Trafeh but the NYRR says he’s an 8-time champion.
2013 US Half Marathon, 2013 USA 25K champion (set U.S. record of 1:14:18), 2012 USA 15K Champion (43:23), 2011 USA 10 Mile champion (46:46) 2011 USA Half Marathon champion (1:02.17), 2011 USA 15K champion (42:58), 2010 USA 15K champion
More: LRC Exclusive Chris Derrick, Ryan Vail And Other Elites React To Mo Trafeh EPO Bust None of the elites we’ve heard from were very surprised to hear about Trafeh’s EPO bust as many have suspected him for years and even referred to him as “MoPO.” Here we share some thoughts from Derrick and Vail after USAs, as well as tweets from Ben True, Nick Arciniaga, Steve Magness, Kevin Hanson,Fernando Cabada, Scotty Bauhs and more.