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Nov 25, 2015 12:40 PM

Coe faces difficult questions at IAAF meeting

The Associated Press

MONACO (AP) Sebastian Coe's first few months as president of track and field's governing body could hardly have been any rougher.

The former two-time Olympic 1,500-meter champion is battling suggestions that his long-standing ties to Nike Inc. are no longer appropriate and pose a possible conflict of interest now that he is overseeing the sport.

The arrest in France on corruption charges of Coe's predecessor, Lamine Diack, and the exposure of systematic doping and cover-ups in Russia have eroded trust in the sport and its leadership and forced Coe and the International Association of Athletics Federations onto the defensive.

A meeting Thursday of the IAAF council, followed by a potentially tense news conference, will offer Coe a chance to defend himself and to address, if not extinguish, the many fires facing the sport with nine months to go until the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro next August.

The meeting in Monaco is expected to flesh out an anti-doping roadmap that Russia will have to follow to be allowed back into international competition. The IAAF council voted 22-1 on Nov. 13 to suspend Russia, barring its track athletes from international competition, including the Olympics, after a damning report from a World Anti-Doping Agency commission detained allegedly state-backed doping and cover-ups in Russia.

Coe's paid advisory role for Nike is not on the meeting agenda and the IAAF says it "has never been seen, nor is it seen, as a matter of ethical concern." Still, he will almost surely face questions on the issue at his news conference.

Coe may also be grilled about whether he lobbied for the Oregon city of Eugene to host the 2021 world championships. Nike's headquarters are outside Portland, about 100 miles (160 kms) from Eugene.

Coe insisted he "did not lobby anyone" on Eugene's behalf. But the Swedish city of Gothenburg, which was also vying for the 2021 worlds, wants the process to be investigated. Eugene was awarded the championships, the first in the U.S., without an open bidding process.

The BBC also reported Tuesday that British taxpayers funded part of Coe's IAAF presidential campaign.

UK Sport, a government-funded public body which also receives cash from Britain's National Lottery, contributed 63,000 pounds ($95,000) to British public relations company Vero Communications for its work on Coe's campaign.

Coe said on the IAAF website that the other "two thirds of the campaign was privately funded."

Coe beat Ukrainian pole vault great Sergei Bubka in the presidential election in Beijing, succeeding Diack.

UK Sport defended paying Vero Communications for Coe's campaign, saying it helps to ensure Britain "is in an influential position to drive good governance, leadership and development in international sport."

For Russian track and field athletes to compete again, their federation ARAF must jump through numerous hoops and demonstrate that it has permanently dismantled the "deeply rooted culture of cheating" that WADA's commission identified.

The IAAF said Russia must ban athletes, doctors, coaches and others who doped or were complicit in it and implement other reforms, including steps to encourage whistleblowing.

The Monaco meeting is expected to focus in more detail on the steps Russia will have to fulfill to be welcomed back. Exactly how long that might take isn't clear.

"There cannot be any timeframe for ARAF's return until we are assured all criteria have been fully met and will continue to be met forever," Coe said.


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