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.”
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