IAAF president Coe steps down from Nike role

Luke Phillips
IAAF president Sebastian Coe has said he wants "engagement not isolation" to settle the doping scandal (AFP Photo/Greg Baker)
IAAF president Sebastian Coe has said he wants "engagement not isolation" to settle the doping scandal (AFP Photo/Greg Baker)

Monaco (AFP) - IAAF president Sebastian Coe bowed to intense pressure and announced Thursday that he had stepped down from his paid role as an ambassador for Nike to focus more on cleaning up world track and field's beleaguered governing body.

"It is clear that perception and reality have become horribly mangled," said Coe after an IAAF Council meeting.

"I've stepped down from my ambassadorial role with Nike, which dates back 38 years.

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"The current noise level around this ambassadorial role is not good for the IAAF and it is not good for Nike, and frankly it is a distraction to the 18-hour days I and our teams are working to steady the ship."

Coe also announced he would step down from his role as chairman of the British Olympic Committee after the Rio Olympics and said a multinational sports marketing company he heads up, CSM, would "not tender for nor directly work for the IAAF or any city in relation to their tender to the IAAF while I am president of the IAAF".

Coe, unpaid as head of track and field's world governing body, received around £100,000 (142,000 euros) a year for his global ambassadorial role for Oregon-based Nike.

The Briton, a two-time Olympic gold 1500m medallist, is accused of lobbying disgraced predecessor Lamine Diack to hand Eugene the 2021 world championships.

Bjorn Eriksson, who led a rival bid by Gothenburg for the 2021 championships, said Coe telephoned him on Wednesday to say it had been wrong to give the event to Eugene without a formal bidding process, The Times reported.

Coe insisted, however, that he had not been responsible for the decision that was made in April.

"I don't believe it was a conflict of interest," Coe stressed.

The decision to step down from Nike "was purely on the need to focus on challenges ahead with my colleagues and particularly the executive teams here at (IAAF) headquarters", he said.

"The issues that I've been dealing with in the last few weeks, the reform of the organisation, the challenges faced by the organisation across two or three fronts, needs an unflinching focus and the 'noises off' are frankly a distraction and I can see that.

"The decision I chose to take in the last few weeks was one that I think reflected my absolute intention to focus as long and as hard as I can on steadying the ship that has been rocking rather badly recently."

Coe added, however, that he had sought advice from the IAAF Ethics Commission, who said the Briton could have continued in his Nike role as long as he "continually and consistently declared all my interests" and did not participate in any decisions involving the company when it came to working with the IAAF.

Eriksson also said Coe had indicated that the Eugene award was being investigated by French police as part of a corruption inquiry into the IAAF leadership of Diack, who stood down in August.

Diack is also under investigation over allegations that he took bribes from Russian officials to cover up positive drug tests by athletes.

"If I understand Sebastian Coe correctly, he said, 'I agree that the procedure wasn't correct', but he claims he wasn't involved in this, others are," Eriksson said.

Coe had been a strong supporter of Eugene's bid for the 2021 championships and was part of the IAAF council that voted this year to abandon the normal bidding process.

Nike, which was founded in Eugene, was also a powerful backer of the bid.

And the BBC said Tuesday it had seen an email in which a Nike executive said Coe had assured him he would "reach out" to Diack on behalf of Eugene.

Coe insisted that action would be taken should there be anything shown to be out of order with bids not only for Eugene but also the world championships in Doha in 2017.

"In our own internal reviews, the criminal investigations that are currently ongoing... or any of the recommendations or conclusions from the independent commission report to WADA, if any of those show or conclude impropriety, then action will be taken," Coe warned.

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