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IAAF's Sebastian Coe parts ways with Nike

The head of world athletics has ended his professional relationship with the Nike corporation. The decision comes on the heels of a series of scandals surrounding the IAAF, and latterly implicating Coe personally.

IAAF chief Sebastian Coe announced on Thursday that he had resigned from his role as a paid brand ambassador for Nike. Coe said he was stepping down to focus on cleaning up international track and field's governing body, but the move follows an investigation into the awarding hosting rights for the 2021 World Championships in Athletics to Eugene, Oregon, USA.

Eugene was awarded the 2021 competition without a real bidding process between it and the other would-be host, Gothenburg, Sweden. Sports apparel giant Nike, which paid Coe around $151,000 dollars (143,000 euros) a year to be their global ambassador, was founded in Eugene.

Despite the accusations of foul play, particularly from Bjorn Eriksson, who led the Gothenburg bird, Coe has maintained he had nothing to do with the decision, which was handed down last April.

Coe denies wrongdoing

"I have sought advice from the IAAF's Ethics Committee to review my interests and was told I could retain my positions in Nike and (sports marketing company) CSM as long as I do not seek to influence any decisions that could influence them," Coe told the press after an IAAF Council meeting in Monaco.

"I'm grateful for that advice but it is clear that perception and reality have become horribly mangled," said Coe, who is also a longstanding Conservative member of Britain's upper house of parliament, the House of Lords.

"I've made the following decisions: I've stepped down from my ambassadorial role with Nike which lasted 38 years. The current noise level around it is not good for Nike or the IAAF and is a distraction," he said.

Despite Coe's claim that no wrongdoing occured, the BBC reported that they had obtained an email with evidence to the contrary. Sent in January 2015 from Craig Masback, a marketing executive for Nike, to the owners of a track and field venue in Eugene called Track Town USA, the e-mail implies that Coe, referred to as "Seb", had been in touch about the 2021 championship.

"He made clear his support for 2021 in Eugene but made equally clear he had reached out to [former IAAF President Lamine] Diack specificially on this topic and got a clear statement from Diack that 'I am not going to take any action at the April meeting to choose a 2021 site'."

The Briton, himself a two-time Olympic gold medalist (1,500 meters in 1980, 1984), has been accused of aggressively lobbying Lamine Diack, to award the 2021 games to Eugene. Diack only recently

handed the mantle over to Coe

following allegations from earlier this month that he was bribed to defer sanctions against Russian athletes who were doping. Russia on Thursday

accepted its IAAF suspension without appeal

.

es/msh (AFP, Reuters)

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