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Lananna exits as Eugene’s IAAF World Championships head

Vin Lananna has resigned as president of TrackTown USA and chairman of the local organising committee (LOC) for the 2021 World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, stating he wants to devote more of his time to assess the future of the sport in the US.

Lananna’s announcement comes after USA Track & Field (USATF) in February placed him on temporary administrative leave as president amid a Department of Justice (DOJ) probe into bids for several international athletics championships, including the 2015 awarding of the 2021 World Championships to Eugene.

The Reuters news agency, citing the Eugene Register-Guard newspaper, stated that Lananna had denied his resignation was connected to the DOJ investigation. Lananna said in a letter to the Oregon21 Steering Committee that he had been thinking about how he could enhance athletics with the US also set to host the 2028 summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

“In order to consolidate my efforts and seize this moment, I am stepping aside as president of TrackTown USA and as chair of the Oregon21 Local Organizing Committee,” Lananna said in his letter.

“With the day-to-day operational structure of TrackTown USA and the delivery of Oregon21 in capable hands, the timing for me to transition my focus to the future of track and field could not be better.”

Chief executive Michael Reilly will now lead TrackTown USA – a non-profit body founded by Lananna to attract major meets to Oregon – while Kathy Herrmann will serve as interim executive director of Oregon21.

In January, the New York Times newspaper reported that US prosecutors had issued grand jury subpoenas in a widespread investigation into corruption in global sport, with the probe set to look into activities surrounding some of the industry’s most influential governing bodies.

The investigation, which is being led by the US attorney’s office for the eastern district of New York in Brooklyn, is said to be looking into operations at a number of organisations, including the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), US Olympic Committee (USOC), International Olympic Committee (IOC) and football’s global governing body Fifa, as well as figures who have helped to secure hosting rights for sport’s biggest events.

The subpoenas, which were delivered in January, are said to include solicited documents, testimony and financial records dating back to 2013. The Times said that Eugene’s successful bid to host the 2021 IAAF World Championships was one of the events under investigation and USATF confirmed this in its February statement.

USATF said it placed Lananna on temporary administrative leave in an effort to help eliminate potential conflict of interest concerns. However, it stressed it had no reason to believe TrackTown and/or Lananna had done anything wrong, adding it understood they had been told that they were not a target of the investigation.

The longtime president of TrackTown USA, Lananna led Eugene’s bid efforts when the city was awarded the World Championships in 2015. The contentious decision to award hosting rights for the 2021 World Championships to Eugene has been under the spotlight for some time. The April 2015 decision was made by the IAAF under its previous stewardship by disgraced former president Lamine Diack.

Eugene – a city with strong links to US sportswear company Nike – was awarded the hosting rights without a bidding process in a decision that shocked Gothenburg in Sweden, which was preparing a bid of its own.

The IAAF told Reuters it will hold talks with Reilly and Herrmann this week to draw “clear lines of accountability” on preparations for the championships. “The Oregon 21 Organizing Committee has a good team in place under Kathy Herrmann and Michael Reilly,” the IAAF said.

“We have been working with them on simplifying and solidifying their governance and management structures to ensure clear lines of accountability for all aspects of the delivery of the IAAF World Championships in 2021. We will continue those talks this week and look forward to our next visit later this year.”