Coe denies claims of lobbying for Oregon

LONDON • World athletics chief Sebastian Coe has denied allegations of a conflict of interest over his ties with Nike and his role in the 2021 world championships being awarded to the American sportswear group's home state.

Coe, head of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), told the BBC on Tuesday: "I did not lobby anyone on behalf of the Eugene 2021 bid" in the US state of Oregon.

Nike started out in Eugene and is now based in Beaverton in the same state. In April, Eugene was awarded the event without a bidding process, despite strong interest from the Swedish city of Gothenburg.

"The situation was unusual but not unprecedented. A bid process did not take place when Osaka was awarded the 2007 World Championships," Coe said.

"The process for bidding is already being reviewed as part of a wide range of reforms currently being prepared," he added.

The defence came following a BBC investigation.

After being shown e-mail claiming that Coe contacted then IAAF president Lamine Diack to support Eugene's bid, Bjorn Eriksson, former head of Interpol and in charge of Gothenburg's failed 2021 bid, told the BBC: "It doesn't look good at all.

"It smells and it has to be investigated. That's for the sport, for everybody involved," he said.

However, an IAAF spokesman told Reuters: "There is nothing to revisit. This was a democratic decision of the IAAF Council."

Coe, who is an ambassador for Nike, was an IAAF vice-president at the time.

He was elected president in August after spending eight years as deputy to Diack, who is being investigated by French police on suspicion of having taken more than one million euros (S$1.5 million) in payments to cover up positive drug tests.

Despite the IAAF and Coe fighting a rearguard action, the questions are unlikely to go away and such a backdrop is the last thing the IAAF needs as it attempts to deal with arguably the worst doping crisis in the sport's history.

Its council, which meets again in Monaco today, has provisionally suspended Russia following the publication of the World Anti-Doping Agency's (Wada) independent commission report that uncovered systematic and widespread state-supported doping and cover-ups in the country.

Coe, a two-time Olympic 1,500m champion, will appear before a British parliamentary committee next week when he will be grilled again about his role.

British MP Damian Collins, a member of that committee and a longstanding campaigner against corruption within football governing body Fifa, said: "Seb Coe should end his job with Nike if he is to continue as president of the IAAF. The perception of conflicts of interests is too great."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2015, with the headline 'Coe denies claims of lobbying for Oregon'. Print Edition | Subscribe