Coe defends Eugene decision amid French inquiry

Thu Dec 10, 2015 7:52am EST
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By Mitch Phillips

LONDON (Reuters) - World athletics head Sebastian Coe said on Thursday the award of the 2021 world championships to the U.S. city of Eugene without a bidding process was perfectly legitimate, after French prosecutors announced an investigation of the decision.

French national financial prosecutors said a case had been opened in response to media reports questioning the award by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), which has been shaken in recent months by a wider corruption and doping scandal.

Coe, who was vice president of IAAF when the games were awarded in April, told BBC Radio Four it was not unprecedented for decisions to be made without a bidding process. Japan's Osaka was given the 2007 event in such circumstances.

"Eugene was not put forward by the IAAF but by US Track and Field," Coe said. "The Council decided this was the best opportunity in the foreseeable future to get the championships into the U.S.

"We did not have cities like Miami or Chicago falling over themselves to put themselves forward."

Eugene is closely linked to U.S. sportswear firm Nike. That connection also caused disquiet as Coe was a long-standing paid ambassador for the company and had to defend himself against accusations that leaked internal Nike emails suggested he supported their bid.

The double Olympic champion denied there was any conflict of interest, but severed the link two weeks ago, describing "noise" around the situation as a distraction as he sought to deal with the doping and corruption crisis.

The French Ministry of Justice issued a statement on Thursday explaining why it had opened the case having been made aware of the unusual nature of the decision and Coe's potential conflict of interest by international media.   Continued...

Sebastian Coe, IAAF's President, attends the IAAF press conference in Monaco, November 26, 2015. REUTERS/Jean-Pierre Amet