Photo: Nigel Roddis (Getty)

Two of the best distance runners of all time are engaged in a very public feud, which started when British four-time gold medalist Mo Farah says he had a bunch of his stuff stolen while staying in Ethiopian running great Haile Gebrselassie’s hotel.

Farah told reporters Wednesday that last month he stayed at Gebrselassie’s hotel in Addis Ababa when he discovered that $3,000 in cash, a watch, and two phones had been stolen from his room. Farah claimed that Gebrselassie blew him off when he tried to report the theft, and he castigated Gebrselassie for his inaction:

“Just to be honest, it’s Haile who owns the hotel and when you stay for three months in that hotel, it was very disappointing to know that someone who has that hotel and that kind of support couldn’t do nothing.”

Gebrselassie shot back at Farah today, telling BBC that the hotel investigated the robbery, which was Farah’s fault for declining management’s suggestion to keep his cash in a safety deposit box. He also said he received “multiple reports of disgraceful conduct” about Farah’s team, and said Farah didn’t pay his bill even though he took a 50 percent discount.

Gebrselassie accused Farah of punching and kicking a man and his wife in the gym of his hotel, saying Farah went after an Ethiopian couple unprovoked while they were trying to work out. Gebrselassie says he personally saved Farah from criminal charges:

“The police said: ‘Haile, why are you saying like this? This is a criminal.’ I said: ‘Please, please please.’ He escaped the police without a case. He left Ethiopia without any questioning. And finally, he apologised for the attack – ‘OK, no problem, I was very angry, blah blah blah.’ I have always taken care of him in different ways. But he treated us the wrong way.”

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Farah’s coach Gary Lough claimed to have been in the gym when the alleged attack went down. He said Farah acted in self-defense when the unnamed Ethiopian athlete started copying the runner’s exercises before allegedly stepping in to attack Farah’s training partner. In the ensuing melee, the athlete’s wife was hit and she then allegedly came at Farah holding a pair of dumbbells.

According to Gebrselassie, Farah retained an Ethiopian lawyer and he intends to pursue the return of his property. The hotel owner won’t back down though, and he insists that Farah is trying to destroy his reputation:

“If it is true he has lost that much money, then he is sorry that he can not bring this to court,” he said. “The only thing he can do is destroy my name and destroy my hotel.”

He also made it clear that he did not intend to back down. “He hired a lawyer in Ethiopia. And we have our own lawyer. And now the fight will start and we will see – and one of us will be the winner.”