IAAF president Lord Coe is facing conflict of interest allegations following emails emerged suggesting he lobbied his predecessor more than the hosting of the 2021 World Championships.
Eugene, USA, was given the occasion without having a bidding approach, in spite of interest from the Swedish city of Gothenburg.
A BBC investigation has uncovered emails which claim Coe – a Nike ambassador and then-vice president of planet athletics – “reached out” to Lamine Diack with his help for Eugene’s bid.
The Oregon city, which lost out to Doha with a 2019 bid, is closely connected with the sports giant.
Leader of the Gothenburg bid at the time and former head of Interpol Bjorn Eriksson told the BBC that the conflict of interest allegations needed “an explanation”.
When asked about the allegations, Coe told the BBC he “did not lobby anybody” more than Eugene’s bid, but “encouraged them to re-enter yet another bidding cycle as they had a robust bid”.
The British former Olympic 1500m champion, who was elected as president of athletics’ governing body in August, added that all of his interests had been declared to the IAAF’s ethics committee and that his views on all the bids for the 2019 World Athletics Championships and Eugene’s 2021 bid “are all a matter of public record”.
Senagalese Diack, 82, is getting investigated over allegations he took payments for deferring sanctions against Russian drugs cheats.
Following the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (Wada) independent commission report suggested Russia’s athletics federation be suspended from international competition, Coe mentioned track and field faced a “lengthy way back” from a “shameful scenario” – but that he was “much more determined than ever” to lead the sport.
Even so, the report’s co-author Dick Pound will be publishing the second portion of his report later this year, focusing on alleged IAAF corruption.
How was the 2021 selection produced?
Coe had been on the IAAF evaluation commission which visited Doha, Eugene, and the other unsuccessful bidder for 2019, Barcelona.
After its disappointment, Track Town USA, the organisation behind the Eugene bid – which is closely related with Nike – quickly turned its focus to 2021, and started lobbying the IAAF.
The efforts of Vin Lananna, Track Town USA’s chief, paid off and in April this year at an IAAF meeting in Beijing, Diack announced a surprise vote on whether or not to bypass a standard bidding process, and just hand the 2021 games to Eugene.
Several IAAF council members have told the BBC that Diack created clear his support for Eugene, and urged his fellow members to comply with suit. The secret vote was carried by 23-1, with 1 abstention.
A bid procedure did not take place when the Japanese city of Osaka was awarded the 2007 Planet Championships.
What was the reaction?
Eriksson, the then head of Swedish athletics who was in charge of Gothenburg’s bid, told the BBC he had been personally assured by both Coe and Diack that it would get a chance to bid for 2021.
“The thought we do not even get the chance to deliver an offer, we do not get the chance to be judged,” he mentioned. “That tends to make me still furious.”
Eriksson is now demanding answers over regardless of whether Coe himself played any part in the procedure.
Coe told the BBC he believed the 2021 games would only be awarded right after a bidding approach until the IAAF council meeting in April at which Diack told its members to award the event to Eugene.
Lananna is on record as saying that neither Nike nor Coe had something to do with the bidding approach, other than Coe’s appropriate to vote on it as an IAAF member.
So what was in the email?
The BBC has obtained an internal Nike e-mail that could throw doubt on that claim.
The e mail, dated 30 January 2015, is from Craig Masback, director of company affairs for Nike’s Worldwide Sports Marketing and advertising, to Lananna and Robert Fasulo, each from Track Town USA.
Masback was chief executive for USA Track and Field (USATF) for far more than 10 years just before joining Nike in 2008.
The e-mail, titled ‘2021’ and in which Coe is referred to as “Seb”, reads: “I spoke with Seb this morning. We covered numerous topics but I asked particularly about 2021.
“He made clear his assistance for 2021 in Eugene but made equally clear he had reached out to Diack specifically on this subject and got a clear statement from Diack that ‘I am not going to take any action at the April meeting (in Beijing) to pick a 2021 site’.”
But it was at that April meeting of the IAAF’s council that Diack announced the surprise vote on giving the championships straight to Eugene.
What occurred subsequent?
Other emails seen by the BBC reveal that Lananna made at least one particular trip to Europe to pay a visit to Diack a few weeks soon after this email was written.
And by 15 April 2015, Track Town USA’s campaign had paid off.
“We got 24 hours’ notice of this vote and it was produced clear to us what Lamine wanted – he wanted Eugene to get these championships,” an IAAF council member told the BBC. The decision was announced on 16 April.
‘It smells and demands investigating’
The BBC showed the emails to Eriksson, who is also the former president of international police organisation Interpol.
“It does not appear good. It doesn’t good at all. I would extremely considerably [like to] hear the explanation for this,” Eriksson stated. “I’ve by no means noticed it prior to.
“I would quite much like to hear how could this be explained. It is a very excellent query to Sebastian Coe. What is this?”
Asked how he felt about the complete 2021 process, Eriksson said: “It smells and it has to be investigated. That’s for the sport, for everybody involved.”
Eriksson also cautioned Coe on his association with Nike, which is reported to be worth about £100,000 per year to the double Olympic gold medallist.
He mentioned: “I’d say it doesn’t assist at all, I’d say it is a significant problem.”
What about Nike’s role in this?
Although Nike is not an official IAAF sponsor, it could benefit from the games getting held in Eugene.
Nike is a worldwide superpower in athletics – particularly in the USA exactly where it has a sponsorship deal with USATF until 2040 – but came in for criticism when it re-signed twice-banned American sprinter Justin Gatlin.
It is also the kit sponsor for the Russian athletics federation – the topic of a current, damning report by a Wada independent commission.
And earlier this year, the elite Nike Oregon Project instruction camp and its coach Alberto Salazar was at the centre of doping allegations by BBC Panorama, which have been denied, but stay the topic of a US Anti-Doping Agency investigation.
Lord Coe’s responses to the BBC
Q: Did you lobby the IAAF and/or Lamine Diack on behalf of Eugene 2021? If so, offered your role with Nike and Nike’s close association with Eugene and Track Town USA, what would you say to those who would think about this to be a conflict of interest?
A: No, I did not lobby any person on behalf of the Eugene 2021 bid. Soon after their narrow defeat for the 2019 Championships I encouraged them to re-enter another bidding cycle as they had a strong bid. My views on all the bids for the 2019 World Athletics Championships (including Eugene) are a matter of record as I was chair of the evaluation commission for those bids. All my interests were, and continue to be, totally declared to the IAAF ethics committee and listed at the Residence of Lords.
Q: Did you ever talk about the Eugene 2021 bid with any Nike employee, official or executives? If so, with whom, and when?
A: Not unless I was asked if Eugene must rebid to which I would have replied ‘yes’ offered how close they came to winning and the strength of their bid. My views are all a matter of public record as the media covered this extensively at the time.
Q: Did you tell any Nike employee, official or executive in January 2015, that you had been in favour of the IAAF Planet Championships coming to Eugene in 2021? If so, provided your position at the IAAF, what would you say to these who would consider this advance statement of support to be a conflict of interest?
A: I have long believed we need to have a Globe Championship for athletics in the USA given the strength and size of this market and have had discussions with US Track and Field, the USOC (United States Olympic Committee), and cities and states in the USA several times. It is up to these organisations to put forward the proposal of a city, not me.
Q: The BBC has been told by Swedish Athletics that it was assured by you personally, as effectively as by Lamine Diack, that the 2021 games would only be awarded right after a bidding method. Did you say this? If so, how do you then explain what happened?
A: I would have carried out as that was my view proper up to the council meeting in Beijing when president Diack told the council of 25 people there have been political and financial considerations in terms of the way the funding package came collectively for Eugene that might not be present once again and we should award 2021 to Eugene. The overwhelming majority of IAAF council members from all components of the globe decided to take the world track and field championships into a market exactly where we have never been before. The situation was uncommon but not unprecedented. A bid method did not take spot when Osaka was awarded the 2007 Globe Championships. The process for bidding is currently becoming reviewed as element of a wide range of reforms at the moment becoming ready.
Q: The BBC understands that a considerable amount of public income, via UK Sport, was created available to you to support fund your presidential campaign. In light of the events at the IAAF, which some say stands accused of becoming “worse than Fifa”, do you think this was great value for money for the UK taxpayer? If so, why?
A: I am quite grateful for UK Sport’s help. It was provided to me, and to other folks, as portion of UK Sport’s function to market the UK’s sporting interests internationally by assisting with the appointment of folks into important international roles. Two thirds of the campaign was privately funded.
Q: UK Sport has confirmed that it offered £63,000 worth of funding to spend for Lord Coe’s PR group at Vero. Can you confirm how Lord Coe funded the rest of the campaign? ie. travel and expenses?
A: Two-thirds of the campaign was privately funded.