LONDON – IAAF president Sebastian Coe, who is at the center of controversy over his links to Nike, has admitted that the process by which the 2021 world championships were awarded to Eugene, Oregon, was wrong, The Times newspaper reported Thursday.
The report came as the International Association of Athletics Federations council met in Monaco with mounting pressure on Coe over the Oregon-based multinational sportswear firm and doping in Russia.
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 bid process, The Times reported.
Coe stressed, however, that he had not been responsible for the decision that was made in April, the report said.
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 Lamine 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.
Coe acts as a paid ambassador to Nike and on Tuesday the BBC said 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 has denied any wrongdoing and any conflict of interest in his Nike deal.
“They (the IAAF) have to be investigated and he (Coe) would agree to that because if you are going to clear up the mess within the IAAF you must go to the bottom,” Eriksson was quoted as saying. “And I want to know was this bad ethics or was this bad ethics combined with something else?”