News 29 January 2016

Coe under spotlight over 2017 corruption allegations

Sebastian Coe, President of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), is under the spotlight over whether he knew about allegations of corruption during the bidding process for the 2017 IAAF World Championships. During the UK Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) Select Committee meeting on Tuesday, UK Athletics Chairman Ed Warner refused to name who had told him that IAAF Council members were receiving ‘brown envelopes’ from Qatari officials.

Yesterday, the Daily Mail alleged that two witnesses recall Coe warning the London 2017 bid team about the possibility of bribes being offered for votes. When Coe was asked by BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek about whether he had heard the rumours of bribery before, he said (38:40): “No I haven’t. But Ed is right. Whenever you’re in a bidding process…every sport has their rumour, rumour piled upon rumour”. An IAAF spokesperson told The Guardian today: “Sebastian Coe had no actual knowledge of bribes being offered or received linked to the 2017 World Championships”.

However, Warner (interview) also said that Coe had given the green light to an extra US$7.2 million payment outside of the biding process. Warner said that the IAAF had told him that Doha had offered the money to cover the prize money for the 2017 World Championships and that in order to match their bid, the London bid team ought to make the same offer. “His [Coe’s] advice was that would be a major swing factor in our favour”, he told the CMS Committee.

Warner’s allegations show that both he and Coe were aware that requests were being made by the IAAF outside of the normal bidding procedures to host a World Championships. Warner’s admissions also cast doubt on Coe’s claims that he knew nothing about corruption during his tenure as IAAF Vice President from 2007, since he appears to have given the green light to large payment outside of the bidding procedure. This would tie in with the findings of the Independent Commission of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which concluded that senior IAAF staff were aware of ‘imbedded’ corruption.

The IAAF Ethics Commission is now investigating the bidding process for the 2017 and 2019 IAAF World Championships, which were awarded to London and Doha, respectively. Doha is Qatar’s capital city, where four stadiums will host 2022 FIFA World Cup games.

In a 13 November 2014 statement on the findings of a 350-page report penned by Michael Garcia, FIFA found ‘that the potentially problematic facts and circumstances identified by the Report regarding the Qatar 2022 bid were, all in all, not suited to compromise the integrity of the FIFA World Cup 2018/2022 bidding process as a whole’. Should the IAAF Ethics Commission find corruption on behalf of Qatari officials during either bid, then FIFA could also face pressure to re-open its investigation.

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