IAAF's Sebastian Coe Under Scrutiny for Role in Eugene 2021 Bid

Lord Coe
IAAF President Sebastian Coe at a news conference in Beijing, August 19, shortly after his election. Coe is facing questions over an alleged conflict of interests because he is also a brand ambassador for Nike. REUTERS/Jason

IAAF president Sebastian Coe is facing further questions over his role as an ambassador to sportswear company Nike after a BBC investigation uncovered an email that appears to suggest he used his influence to help Eugene, Oregon's bid to host the 2021 athletics World Championships.

According to the BBC, Eugene won the right to host the championships without going through a formal bidding process, even though the Swedish city of Gothenburg had also expressed an interest. Nike originated in Eugene and retains close links to the city.

Coe, who is a former British Olympic champion and is now a member of the British House of Lords, neither wrote nor received the email seen by the BBC, but he is mentioned by name in a correspondence from January 2015 between Craig Masback, a senior Nike executive, and two members of Eugene's official bid team, Vin Lananna and Robert Fasulo.

In the email, Masback tells Lananna and Fasulo that he had had a conversation with Coe on the subject of Eugene's bid. Coe reportedly assured Masback that he supported Eugene's bid and that he had "reached out" to his then boss, the former IAAF President Lamine Diack, on the subject.

"I spoke with Seb [Coe] this morning," the email read, according to the BBC. "We covered several topics but I asked specifically about 2021. He made clear his support for 2021 in Eugene but made equally clear he had reached out to Diack specifically on this topic and got a clear statement from Diack that 'I am not going to take any action at the April meeting [in Beijing] to choose a 2021 site'."

At the meeting of IAAF council members in April, Diack introduced a measure that resulted in the championships being handed immediately to Eugene without the usual bidding process. Bjorn Eriksson, who was then in charge of Swedish athletics, told the BBC of his anger at the decision.

He said, " The idea we don't even get the chance to deliver an offer, we don't get the chance to be judged, that makes me still furious."

Coe has denied he lobbied anyone on behalf of the Eugene 2021 bid but has faced growing pressure to cut his ties with Nike since taking over as IAAF president is August. Following the BBC's revelations, he has again reiterated that all his "interests were, and continue to be, fully declared to the IAAF ethics committee, and listed at the House of Lords."