By Mitch Phillips
Sebastian Coe is stepping down from his ambassadorial role with Nike, the IAAF president said on Thursday.
Coe, who leads the ruling body of world athletics, has worked as a paid ambassador for the sportswear firm but faced repeated questions about a potential conflict of interest.
An internal Nike email leaked this week appeared to show him supporting the bid of Eugene, the US city with close links to the company, to host the 2021 world athletics championships.
Coe also announced that CSM, the sports marketing firm he heads, will not tender for any contracts that might lead to allegations of a conflict of interest.
The Briton also said he was stepping down as chair of the British Olympic Association (BOA) after next year’s Rio Games.
“I have sought advice from the IAAF’s Ethics Committee to review my interests and was told I could retain my positions in Nike and CSM as long as I do not seek to influence any decisions that could influence them,” Coe said at a news conference following an IAAF Council meeting.
“I’m grateful for that advice but it is clear that perception and reality have become horribly mangled.
“I’ve made the following decisions: I’ve stepped down from my ambassadorial role with Nike which lasted 38 years. The current noise level around it is not good for Nike or the IAAF and is a distraction.”
Coe’s relationship with Nike was thrust deeper under the spotlight this week when he faced fresh allegations about his involvement in the controversial award of the 2021 world championships to Eugene.
In April this year the hosting rights were surprisingly awarded without a bidding process, much to the surprise of the Swedish city of Gothenburg that was in the process of preparing to present its own case.
The then-president of the IAAF (the International Association of Athletics Federations), Lamine Diack, supported the idea to give Eugene hosting rights.
But in the light of the 82-year-old being investigated by French authorities over a doping corruption scandal, many observers questioned the validity and transparency of the decision.
On Tuesday the BBC published internal emails it said it obtained from Nike that suggested Coe gave support to the US city’s bid.
The emails raised questions about whether there was a conflict of interests in Coe, who succeeded Diack as IAAF chief in August, supporting Eugene’s bid given his links to Nike.