Saturday, 01 July 2017 01:56

Gothenburg bid boss not surprised by FBI interest in Eugene 2021

The man lined up to front Gothenburg's bid for the 2021 World Athletics Championships has said he is not surprised to learn the decision to give the event to Eugene, Oregon, is under investigation.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) announced Eugene as hosts of the 2021 Worlds in April 2015 but without holding a formal bidding process, a decision Bjorn Eriksson strongly criticised at the time.

In November 2015, however, former IAAF boss Lamine Diack and several senior staff were arrested by French police on suspicion of widespread corruption.

Those inquiries are ongoing but on Wednesday the BBC and Daily Mail reported that the United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service are also now examining how and why Diack decided to give the 2021 championships to the American city.

A former Swedish police chief and president of Interpol, Eriksson was in charge of the Swedish athletics federation in 2015 when Gothenburg was preparing its bid for the event and has long believed the usual process was corrupted.

Speaking to Press Association Sport, Eriksson said: "I haven't heard much about the American investigation but I can't say I'm surprised.

"Isn't this roughly how FIFA turned out? Law enforcement agencies have big advantages over anything sport can do, as they can really go after the money - they will always find out more than sport."

At the time, Diack justified bypassing the normal bidding race by claiming it was "in the interest of the global development of our sport".

The veteran athletics chief said the IAAF council had taken a "strategic decision...to take advantage of a unique advantage that may never arise again".

This was taken to mean that an American world championships were long overdue, as the event has never been held in the world's most successful track and field nation, and a nod to Eugene's close links to sportswear giant Nike and the importance of American broadcast and commercial revenue.

The Nike connection came to the fore shortly after Diack's arrest in November 2015 when the BBC reported that his successor as IAAF president Lord Coe may have lobbied Diack on behalf of Eugene.

Lord Coe has always denied any wrongdoing but gave up an ambassadorial role with Nike shortly after the BBC report, saying accusations of a conflict of interest had become a "distraction" and were hurting his attempts to restore the IAAF's credibility.

In response to the reports of the FBI and IRS investigations into Eugene 2021, an IAAF spokesman 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 wrongdoing in an IAAF bidding process."

Eriksson, who was interviewed by the French authorities about "18 months ago", said he still finds the whole affair "very difficult to understand".

For him, it was not that Gothenburg was beaten by Eugene, it was that Gothenburg was never given a chance to state its case.

"There was no bidding process - we were denied that and nobody from the IAAF has ever explained to me why that happened," he said.

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