Coe quits his role as Nike am­bas­sador

The Herald - Sport - - ATHLETICS -

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

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