Coe denies lobbying claims over 2021 World Athletics Championships

Athletics chief Seb Coe denies lobbying claims over 2021 World Champs

London (AFP) - World athletics chief Sebastian Coe has denied allegations of a conflict of interest over his ties with Nike and his role in the 2021 championships being awarded to the sportswear company'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.

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 emails claiming that Coe contacted then-IAAF president Lamine Diack to support Eugene's bid, Bjorn Eriksson, head 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.

Coe, who reportedly earns some £100,000 (142,000 euros) a year in his role as ambassador for Nike, was an IAAF vice president at the time.

- Large-scale corruption -

Coe was elected president of the IAAF 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 in payments to cover up positive drug tests.

The timing of the allegations of Coe's conflict of interest is not great for either the former two-time Olympic 1500m champion or the IAAF.

The IAAF Council meets in Monaco on Thursday to discuss Russian track and field, just three weeks after deciding to temporarily suspend one of the sport's powerhouses.

The suspension followed a bombshell report published by a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) independent commission that found evidence of state-sponsored doping and large-scale corruption in Russian athletics.

Both the Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA and the Moscow anti-doping laboratory were also suspended over the report.

Russia's suspension from international competition raises the possibility that Russian track and field stars could be sidelined from next summer's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, while they look almost certain to miss the world indoor championships in March in Portland.

WADA's report accused RUSADA of "routinely" violating international testing standards and allowing athletes banned for doping to compete despite having been suspended from competition, among other damning accusations.

But Dick Pound, former WADA president and co-author of the independent commission's report, has expressed his expectation that Russian athletes would be in Rio as their country's sporting officials push to quickly comply with WADA rules.

Pound told the Independent newspaper that the second part of his report, focusing on alleged IAAF corruption and likely due in early 2016, would have a "wow factor".

"When we release this information to the world, there will be a wow factor. I think people will say how on earth could this happen? It?s a complete betrayal of what the people in charge of the sport should be doing," Pound said.

The Canadian admitted that Kenya, who topped the world championships medal table ahead of Russia in Beijing last summer, could be next in WADA's crosshairs.

"It wouldn?t surprise me if WADA did end up doing an investigation on the ground in Kenya, especially with the level of denial from the sport and the Government authorities amid pretty obvious evidence," he said.

Protesting Kenyan athletes this week occupied the Athletics Kenya headquarters, accusing officials of corruption and demanding doping allegations be properly investigated.