Seb Coe grilled by British Parliament over IAAF issues


LONDON (AP) — During a three-hour grilling at a British parliamentary hearing, IAAF President Sebastian Coe said Wednesday he is unsure whether Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2019 World Track and Field Championships was clean.

Coe’s hesitation about Qatar’s bid came exactly five years to the day since the Gulf nation won the right to host soccer’s 2022 World Cup in a vote by FIFA’s widely-discredited executives.

The House of Commons committee which quizzed Coe about Qatar — in a hearing that largely centered on doping allegations — has previously alleged corruption in Qatar’s FIFA bid, but a case has never been proven.

Earlier this week, the IAAF ethics commission suspended three Kenyan track and field leaders, including federation president Isaiah Kiplagat, who is accused of receiving two cars from the Qatar Athletics Federation as “an apparent gift” between 2014 and 2015. Qatar won the right to stage the athletics showpiece for the first time in a November 2014 vote.

“How do you know the whole Qatari bid was clean?” Coe was asked by Labour Party legislator Paul Farrelly during a Culture, Media and Sports Committee hearing into athletics.

“Well I don’t,” Coe, a former Conservative Party member of the House of Commons who now sits in the House of Lords, finally replied after being asked the same question several times.

“The situation is very clear. The ethics committee will look at those investigations.”

Farrelly questioned whether “further inducements were offered or provided” by Qatar’s athletics federation or Qatari companies before the November 2014 vote.

Concluding a tetchy exchange, Farrelly said to Coe: “We will leave you to go away and ponder” whether the bid was clean.

The IAAF ethics commission said in a statement to The Associated Press that “the Qatar dimension to the prima facie case against Mr. Kiplagat notified (on Monday) will be considered by the ethics Commission’s appointed investigator, Mr. Sharad Rao, as it falls within the scope of his investigation. There is therefore no need to commence any additional or distinct procedure (on Qatar’s bid).”

Kiplagat was provisionally suspended on Monday for 180 days by the International Association of Athletics Federations along with two senior Kenyan track and field federation colleagues. The trio is accused of subverting the east African nation’s anti-doping system and siphoning money from sponsor Nike.

The opening four months of Coe’s presidency have been marked by a series of doping and corruption cases.

Former IAAF President Lamine Diack was placed under investigation by French authorities last month on charges of corruption and money-laundering related to the cover-up of Russian doping cases. Russia has been suspended from athletics over the government-backed systematic doping.

Diack, who presided for nearly 16 years at track and field’s governing body – with Coe as a vice president for his last eight years, pocketed more than 1 million euros ($1.1 million) from the alleged cash-for-silence scheme, according to French authorities. The former president’s son, Papa Massata Diack, was also accused by prosecutors last month of being “very active” in an alleged “system of corruption” that sought to blackmail athletes, with demands of money to hush-up suspected doping.

Papa Massata Diack was first suspended by the IAAF from his role as a marketing consultant for the association in December 2014 after allegations surfaced in media reports.

Farrelly asked Coe: “Did you ever ask yourself — or more pertinently ask the president (in 2014) — whether he was asked whether he was involved in anything like this at all?”

“No, because there were no allegations being made about the president,” Coe said.

“But it was the president’s son,” Farrelly shot back.

“I did not ask the president directly,” Coe responded.

Coe gave no clear response when asked by Farrelly whether he was displaying a “lack of curiosity” or “willful blindness” by not questioning Lamine Diack about corruption given that the Senegalese had already been reprimanded in 2011 by the International Olympic Committee over a FIFA kickbacks scandal.

Coe, a double Olympic 1,500m champion who organized the 2012 London Olympics, was elected IAAF president in August and said he will serve a maximum of two four-year terms.

“Returning trust will be a longer journey, and probably see out my mandate,” Coe said.

“Have there been failures? Yes,” he added. “Will I fix them? Absolutely. Will I listen while we’re doing that? Absolutely. I am absolutely focused on doing that, and if we don’t do that, I know there are no tomorrows for my sport. This is the crossroads.”

MORE: Seb Coe splits from Nike

Chloe Kim, Elana Meyers Taylor among Olympians to join presidential sports council

Elana Meyers Taylor, President Joe Biden

Chloe Kim and Elana Meyers Taylor are among the Olympic and Paralympic medalists set to join the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, & Nutrition.

President Joe Biden intends to appoint the snowboarder Kim, bobsledder Meyers Taylor, retired Olympic medalists Chaunté Lowe (track and field) and Tamika Catchings (basketball) and Paralympic medalist Melissa Stockwell (triathlon) to the council, among other athletes and people in the health and fitness fields, it was announced Friday.

Stephen and Ayesha Curry are also on the list.

The council “aims to promote healthy, accessible eating and physical activity for all Americans, regardless of background or ability.”

Last year, Biden appointed basketball gold medalist Elena Delle Donne a co-chair of the council.

Kim, the two-time reigning Olympic halfpipe champion, sat out this past season but is expected to return to competition for a third Olympic run in 2026.

Meyers Taylor, the most decorated U.S. Olympic bobsledder in history with medals in all five of her Olympic events, sat out this past season due to pregnancy. She took her first bobsled run in 13 months this past week in Lake Placid, New York.

There is a long history of Olympians and Paralympians serving on the council, which was created in 1956.

In 2017, Barack Obama appointed medalists including gymnast Gabby Douglas, soccer player Carli Lloyd and fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad.

Others to previously be on the council include sprinter Allyson Felix, figure skater Michelle Kwan and swimmer and triathlete Brad Snyder.

Members serve for two years and can be reappointed.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Kaori Sakamoto wins figure skating worlds; top American places fourth


Kaori Sakamoto overcame a late error in her free skate to become the first Japanese figure skater to win back-to-back world titles and the oldest women’s world champion since 2014.

Sakamoto, 22, totaled 224.61 points on home ice in Saitama to prevail by 3.67 over Lee Hae-In of South Korea in the closest women’s finish at worlds since 2011.

Belgium’s Loena Hendrickx took bronze, edging 16-year-old American Isabeau Levito for a medal by 2.77 points.

Sakamoto is the oldest women’s singles world champion since Mao Asada (2014), who is now the only Japanese skater with more world titles than Sakamoto.

She appeared en route to an easier victory until singling a planned triple flip late in her free skate, which put the gold in doubt. She can be thankful for pulling off the second jump of that planned combination — a triple toe loop — and her 5.62-point lead from Wednesday’s short program.

“I feel so pathetic and thought, what was all that hard work I put into my training?” Sakamoto said of her mistake, according to the International Skating Union (ISU). “But I was able to refocus and do my best till the end.

“Because I have this feeling of regret at the biggest event of the season, I want to make sure I don’t have this feeling next season. So I want to practice even harder, and I want to make sure to do clean, perfect performances at every competition.”

Lee, who had the top free skate, became the second South Korean to win a world medal in any discipline after six-time medalist Yuna Kim.

Hendrickx followed her silver from last year, when she became the first Belgian women’s singles skater to win a world medal.

FIGURE SKATING WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Levito, last year’s world junior champion, had a chance to become the youngest senior world medalist since 2014.

After a solid short program, she fell on her opening triple Lutz in the free skate and left points on the table by performing two jump combinations rather than three. The Lutz was planned to be the first half of a combination with a triple loop.

“I am severely disappointed because I’ve been nailing my Lutz-loop for a really long time, and this is the first time I’ve messed it up in a while, and of course it had to be when it actually counted,” Levito said, according to the ISU. “But I’m pretty happy with myself for just trying to move past it and focusing on making the most out of the rest of the program.”

Levito entered worlds ranked fourth in the field by best score this season. She matched the best finish for a U.S. woman in her senior global championships debut (Olympics and worlds) since Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan took silver and bronze at the 1991 Worlds. Sasha Cohen, to whom Levito is often compared, also placed fourth in her Olympic and world debuts in 2002.

“I feel very proud for myself and grateful for my coaching team for helping me get this far so far in my skating career, and I’m just very proud to be where I am,” Levito said on USA Network.

American Amber Glenn was 12th in her world debut. Two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell was 15th. They had been 10th and eighth, respectively, in the short program.

The U.S. qualified two women’s spots for next year’s worlds rather than the maximum three because the top two Americans’ results added up to more than 13 (Levito’s fourth plus Glenn’s 12th equaled 16). The U.S. was in position to qualify three spots after the short program.

Glenn said after the short program that she had a very difficult two weeks before worlds, including “out-of-nowhere accidents and coincidences that could have prevented me from being here,” and boot problems that affected her triple Axel. She attempted a triple Axel in the free skate, spinning out of an under-rotated, two-footed landing.

Tennell, who went 19 months between competitions due to foot and ankle injuries in 2021 and 2022, had several jumping errors in the free skate.

“This season has been like one thing after another,” said the 25-year-old Tennell, who plans to compete through the 2026 Winter Games. “I’m really excited to get back and work on some stuff for the new season.”

Earlier, Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates topped the rhythm dance, starting their bid for a first world title in their 12th season together and after three prior world silver or bronze medals.

“We skated as best we possibly could today,” Bates said, according to the ISU, after they tallied the world’s top score this season.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White are the lone U.S. ice dancers to win a world title, doing so in 2011 and 2013.

Worlds continue Friday night (U.S. time) with the free dance, followed Saturday morning with the men’s free skate, live on Peacock and USA Network.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!