France probes awarding of Eugene world championships

Wed Dec 9, 2015 4:50pm EST
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PARIS (Reuters) - The controversial decision to award the 2021 athletics world championships to the U.S. city of Eugene is being investigated by France's national financial prosecutors as part of a wide-ranging probe into the sport's governing body.

A spokesman said on Wednesday that prosecutors decided to open the investigation on Dec. 1 following reports in international media that questioned the decision by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

"At this point, no conclusions can be drawn," the spokesman said. "We considered that there are elements that merit being checked out."

In April this year the hosting rights were awarded to Eugene, Oregon without a bidding process, to the surprise of the Swedish city of Gothenburg, which was in the process of preparing to present its own case.

IAAF president Sebastian Coe said recently that the decision was made after a presentation by his predecessor, Lamine Diack, who said that certain financial and commercial opportunities had arisen that he felt meant Eugene should be awarded the rights without contest.

The world championships, which began in 1983, have never been held in the United States, the sport's most powerful nation.

The IAAF Council voted 23-1 in favor, with one abstention, with those behind the Gothenburg bid left frustrated and confused at the change of tack.

Diack is already under investigation in France for alleged corruption relating to demands for payment from athletes to hide positive doping results. Other IAAF officials are also being questioned by French police and Interpol.

Bjorn Eriksson, leader of the Gothenburg bid and former head of Interpol subsequently said the decision "smelled" and needed an investigation.   Continued...