In 2015 Eugene won the bid to host the 2021 World Athletics Championship event. The International Association of Athletics Federations’ decision to give the vaunted event to Oregon’s running capitol is now being investigated by the FBI and IRS. BBC first reported on the brewing scandal yesterday.
The investigation seeks to determine whether or not corruption was involved in the decision to award the international event to Eugene.
Prosecutors in France have been investigating internal corruption at the IAAF since 2015. The FBI and IRS investigations are new, according the BBC report, and are centered on wrongdoing that may have occurred in the US.
The BBC reports Nike may have exerted undue influence on the former IAAF President, Lord Sebastian Coe, in attempts to bring the event to their hometown.
While Lord Coe was not the acting IAAF President at the time, he is accused of lobbying his predecessor, Lamine Diack, on behalf of the city. Coe was a paid Nike ambassador during his alleged campaign for Eugene—raking in £100,000, or around $114,400, a year from the Oregon athletics company.
Coe has since stepped down from his role as ambassador, after accusations of conflict of interest arose. But not before Diack gave Eugene the event without hearing bids from other interested international cities, as is the normal process.
Vin Lananna of TrackTown USA, a non-profit with close ties to Nike, led Eugene’s bid to host the 2021 World Athletics Championship. According to emails acquired by BBC, Nike Executive Craig Masback explicitly mentioned correspondence with Coe to Lananna.
In the following email Masback refers to Coe as Seb:
“I spoke with Seb this morning. We covered several topics but I asked specifically about 2021,” Masback allegedly wrote to Lananna. “He made clear his support for 2021 in Eugene but made equally clear he had reached out to Diack specifically on this topic and got a clear statement from Diack that ‘I am not going to take any action at the April meeting (in Beijing) to choose a 2021 site’.”
It was in fact at the April meeting that Diack, who is currently under house arrest in France on corruption charges, announced the vote to give Eugene the event.
The FBI and IRS did not respond to BBC on details of the investigation.
Coe told BBC he, “did not lobby anyone,” about Eugene.
Nike did not respond to WW‘s request for comment.