US authorities probe award of 2021 World Athletics Championships – reports

The contentious decision to award hosting rights for the 2021 World Athletics Championships to the US city of Eugene is being probed by the FBI and the Criminal Division of America’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS), according to multiple reports.

Such an investigation would increase the spotlight on the April 2015 decision, which was made by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) under its previous stewardship by former president Lamine Diack, who is currently facing a number of corruption allegations.

In December 2015 it was revealed that financial prosecutors in France were investigating the award of the hosting rights. Eugene in Oregon – 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.

One month earlier IAAF president Sebastian Coe denied claims that he lobbied his predecessor Diack over the award of hosting rights for the 2021 World Championships. UK public-service broadcaster the BBC revealed emails that suggested that Coe “reached out” to Diack with his support of Eugene.

At the time, Coe was an ambassador for Nike, a role he quit later that month amid criticism over a conflict of interest.

The BBC has now reported that American authorities – including tax investigators at the IRS – are seeking to determine if any wrongdoing was committed in the US, bringing the total number of agencies investigating the awarding of the 2021 Championships to three.

A spokeswoman for the IAAF and Coe told the BBC she was unaware of any FBI and IRS probes. She said: “The IAAF team has not received notification from the FBI or IRS. However, we are committed to working closely with any key investigation, as we do with the French investigation team, and will take action if proof is found of any wrong doing in an IAAF bidding process.”