Athletics: IAAF president Sebastian Coe steps down from Nike role

 IAAF president Sebastian Coe in a file photo.
IAAF president Sebastian Coe in a file photo.AFP

MONACO (AFP) - IAAF president Sebastian Coe bowed to intense pressure and announced on Thursday that he had stepped down from his paid role as an ambassador for Nike to focus more on cleaning up world track and field's beleaguered governing body.

"It is clear that perception and reality have become horribly mangled," said Coe after an IAAF Council meeting.

"I've stepped down from my ambassadorial role with Nike, which I've had for 38 years."

The situation was "not good for IAAF and not good for Nike".

Coe, unpaid as head of track and field's world governing body, received around £100,000 (S$200,000) a year for his global ambassadorial role for Oregon-based Nike.

The Briton, a two-time Olympic gold 1500m medallist, is accused of lobbying disgraced predecessor Lamine Diack to hand Eugene the 2021 world championships.

Bjorn Eriksson, who led a rival bid by Gothenburg for the 2021 championships, said Coe telephoned him on Wednesday to say it had been wrong to give the event to Eugene without a formal bidding process, The Times reported.

Coe insisted, however, that he had not been responsible for the decision that was made in April.

"I don't believe it was a conflict of interest," Coe stressed.

 
 

The decision to step down from Nike "was purely on the need to focus on challenges ahead with my colleagues and particularly the executive teams here at (IAAF) headquarters", he said.

The job at hand, Coe said, "needs an unflinching focus and the 'noises off' are clearly a distraction and I can see that".

Coe added, however, that he had sought advice from the IAAF Ethics Commission, who said the Briton could have continued in his Nike role as long as he "clearly and consistently declared all my interests".

Eriksson also said Coe had indicated that the Eugene award was being investigated by French police as part of a corruption inquiry into the IAAF leadership of Diack, who stood down in August.

Diack is also under investigation over allegations that he took bribes from Russian officials to cover up positive drug tests by athletes.

"If I understand Sebastian Coe correctly, he said, 'I agree that the procedure wasn't correct', but he claims he wasn't involved in this, others are," Eriksson said.

Coe had been a strong supporter of Eugene's bid for the 2021 championships and was part of the IAAF council that voted this year to abandon the normal bidding process.

Nike, which was founded in Eugene, was also a powerful backer of the bid.

And the BBC said Tuesday it had seen an e-mail in which a Nike executive said Coe had assured him he would "reach out" to Diack on behalf of Eugene.