The BBC was at the centre of another impartiality controversy last night for failing to inform viewers Paula Radcliffe is married to Sir Mo Farah’s coach and sponsored by Nike after she appeared to downplay Alberto Salazar’s doping ban.
The corporation confirmed yesterday it had received a handful of complaints about an exchange between presenter Gabby Logan and women’s marathon world record holder Radcliffe about the Salazar scandal during its coverage of athletics’ World Championships on Tuesday afternoon.
It refused to confirm or deny whether any related to impartiality after it gave Radcliffe a platform to address Farah and others’ decision to stand by Salazar and the Nike Oregon Project without declaring her family’s financial links to Britain’s most decorated athlete and the sportswear leviathan.
As well as declaring Farah had “made the decision that was right for him” by remaining in the NOP when doping accusations against Salazar first emerged in 2015, Radcliffe rejected criticism of other athletes who subsequently joined the project.
She also bizarrely accused the United States Anti-Doping Agency of “trying maybe to regain a little bit of face” with the Salazar case following its recent failed pursuit of sprinter Christian Coleman over three missed whereabouts filings, even though its investigation into the coach began years earlier.
The BBC denied the exchange – watched by around a million viewers – had breached its guidelines, which have come under unprecedented scrutiny this week following widespread condemnation of its handling of a complaint about comments made by Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty regarding Donald Trump and race.
Radcliffe’s marriage to Farah's coach Gary Lough and her Nike sponsorship were ignored despite an earlier interview on the BBC website with its lead athletics commentator Steve Cram citing his role as an ambassador for the American firm.
Ian Lucas MP, a leading member of parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media & Sport select committee, told the Daily Telegraph the corporation had a duty to inform viewers of any relevant financial links its commentators had, saying he had been unaware of Radcliffe’s.
He said: “If the BBC is to retain its independent status and express an independent view then it needs to be completely open about the relationships that do exist and that should be clear whenever it broadcasts anything.”
A spokesman for Radcliffe did not respond to requests for comment last night about the BBC’s failure to highlight her links to Farah and Nike but the latter’s sponsorship of her has not prevented her criticising it in the past.
In 2015, she denounced its decision to award the twice-convicted doper Justin Gatlin a new sponsorship deal, saying it did not reflect “the core values of the Nike that I am proud to represent”.
A BBC spokesperson said: “We are aware of Paula’s external interests, which did not affect her personal comments here.”
Those comments included agreeing with Farah that the Usada inquiry had “dragged on far too long”, with Radcliffe adding: “Aside from the rulings now, which I think was the right decision – the punishment that’s been handed out – how much money has gone into this investigation over the last four, six years. How much went into the Coleman one and how much has gone into research and development into anti-doping and into trying to improve the testing out there and doing something to really protect the clean athletes.
“That’s what kind of frustrates me yet again. Usada and UK Anti-Doping, the AIU [Athletics Integrity Unit], their job is to protect the clean athletes and to catch those athletes out there cheating.”
When the accusations against the NOP were first aired by Panorama, Cram branded them “historical” and said there was a “witchhunt” against Farah.