Coe defends IAAF's Eugene 2021 award decision

LONDON • Sebastian Coe has defended the International Association of Athletics Federation's (IAAF) controversial decision to award the 2021 World Championships to Eugene, following news that the process is under investigation by French authorities.

The American city, which has close ties to sportswear giant Nike, was awarded the event in April without a vote - angering Sweden's Gothenburg, which had been preparing a rival bid.

Last month, leaked e-mails showed a senior Nike executive, Craig Masback, discussing a conversation with Coe, then IAAF vice-president and a long-time paid Nike ambassador, about Eugene's prospects.

France's national financial prosecutors said the case would now form part of their wider probe into corruption allegations involving the former IAAF president Lamine Diack but added: "At this point, no conclusions can be drawn."


First... we've selected cities without bidding cycles before. Second, Eugene was not put forward by the IAAF, it was put forward by US Track and Field.

SEBASTIAN COE, International Association of Athletics Federation president

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme yesterday, Coe defended the process, insisting the decision was made because Eugene represented the best chance to stage the event in the United States for the first time since the World Championships began in 1983.

"First, it's not without precedent," said Coe. "We've selected cities without bidding cycles before.

"Second, Eugene was not put forward by the IAAF, it was put forward by United States Track and Field… as the best opportunity in the foreseeable future to get world athletics into the United States."

The IAAF Council voted 23-1 in favour, with one abstention, with those behind the Gothenburg bid left frustrated and confused.

Bjorn Eriksson, leader of the Gothenburg bid and a former head of Interpol, subsequently said the decision "smelled" and needed an investigation.

Coe has denied that his £100,000 (S$213,100) a year role with Nike represented a conflict of interest in the process - though he severed the link two weeks ago.

He said: "I made it very clear when I became president of the IAAF that everything I did is under review. I made a judgment to step down from the Nike role because there was too much noise and distraction around challenges I already have."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 11, 2015, with the headline 'Coe defends IAAF's Eugene 2021 award decision'. Print Edition | Subscribe