Coe quits his role as Nike ambassador
IAAF president Lord Coe has finally quit his role as an ambassador for Nike, writes Guy Aspin, admitting the furore surrounding his association with the company has become a distraction to his bid to clean up athletics. However, the head of world athletics’ governing body insisted his decision to cut ties with the American sportswear giant was not down to any conflict of interest.
“It is clear that perception and reality have become horribly mangled,” he said at a press conference in Monaco. Coe had come under increasing pressure to end his long-standing association with Nike, with his role believed to be worth about £100,000 a year.
Yesterday’s announcement came two days after allegations surfaced that Coe lobbied for Eugene to host the 2021 World Championships. The American city has close links with Nike and was awarded the championships without a bidding process, despite strong interest from Swedish city Gothenburg.
Coe, who said his decision was not a reaction to those claims, added: “The current noise level around this role is not good for the IAAF and for Nike. It is a distraction to the 18-hour days that I and my teams are working to steady the ship.”
Coe also announced he would be stepping down as British Olympic Association chairman after the Rio Olympics and that his sports marketing company CSM would not tender for any IAAF work.
The 59-year-old emphasised, though, that the IAAF ethics commission had told him he could retain his roles with Nike and CSM as long as he was not involved in any decisions relating to them.
Coe pointed out that he had retained his Nike role throughout his time as London 2012 chairman and BOA chief, with Nike’s rivals adidas the organisations’ partners.
He said: “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 has found himself at the centre of one of sport’s biggest scandals since taking over as head of the IAAF, an unpaid position, from Lamine Diack in August. Revelations by the World Anti-Doping Agency about a statesponsored doping system in Russia have seen the country banned from international competition by the IAAF, a sanction the Russian athletics federation has now accepted. There have been allegations of corruption and cover-ups at the IAAF too.
The allegations Coe lobbied Diack about the host city for the 2021 World Championships came in a BBC investigation centred on an internal Nike email from January claiming Coe gave assurances he supported the Eugene bid. Diack later announced the award of the event in April.
Coe said his actions were entirely above board. “I was in a conversation with a Nike official in discharging my ambassadorial role, discussing a range of issues,” he said. “I was asked specifically about my view of what was happening (around the host city bid process). It wasn’t the only question I’d had on that subject – there was a high level of speculation from both bidding cities as to what the process was going to be. I sought clarification from the president of the IAAF, who told me he saw no reason as to why that bidding process shouldn’t continue.”
WALKING AWAY: IAAF president Lord Coe has announced that he will end his long-standing association with Nike