USATF puts president Lananna on leave during Eugene 2021 probe
Vin Lananna, president of USA Track and Field, has been placed on temporary leave by the domestic governing body in a bid to avoid potential conflict of interest concerns over a probe into the awarding of the 2021 IAAF World Championships to Eugene in Oregon.
The US Department of Justice is investigating possible racketeering, money laundering and fraud charges related to the awarding of the 2021 championships to Eugene and the 2019 edition to Doha in Qatar.
Steve Miller, chairman of the USATF board, said in a statement: “USATF has no reason to believe TrackTown and/or Mr. Lananna have done anything wrong and understand that they have been told that they are not a target of the investigation. But to avoid any conflict or appearance of conflict of interest in relation to the investigation, the board voted to place Mr. Lananna on temporary administrative leave until the Department of Justice investigation pertaining to TrackTown and the 2021 World Championships is resolved.”
USATF said it has encouraged both TrackTown and Lananna to "continue cooperating truthfully with the DOJ investigation," adding that if even though it has not been approached by the DoJ, it will "reach out to DOJ to offer its commitment to cooperate fully."
The award of the IAAF World Championships, back in April 2015, is already the subject of a wider probe by French prosecutors, which is taking in other championships and implicated former IAAF president Lamine Diack and his son Papa Massata Diack.
Eugene, which is closely associated with Nike, the US sportswear giant headquartered in nearby Portland, was awarded the 2021 World Championships, without a bidding process, even though Gothenburg in Sweden had also expressed an interest in hosting the event.
The Eugene bid was led by TrackTown USA, a company headed up by Lananna, the president of USATF since December 2016. Both organisations also have close links with Nike.
In November 2015, IAAF president Sebastian Coe ended his long-running paid ambassadorial role with Nike amid claims it could represent a conflict of interest. He had denied allegations that he had lobbied his predecessor Diack for Eugene to be awarded the hosting rights to the 2021 championships.