Eugene 2021 organiser put on leave as U.S. track chief

(Reuters) – Vin Lananna, the chief organiser of Oregon’s 2021 world athletics championships, has been temporarily placed on administrative leave as president of USA Track & Field (USATF) while the U.S. Department of Justice investigates bids by Eugene and other athletics championships, USATF said in a statement yesterday.

“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,” USATF board chair Steve Miller said in a statement. “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.”

Lananna, the president of TrackTownUSA, was not immediately available for comment.

The governing body of USA Track & Field said that in the last 10 days it had learned that media reports of a federal investigation into the awarding of the 2021 World Championships “are confirmed, and that TrackTown USA and its president, Mr. Lananna, were initially contacted by federal law enforcement months ago”.

The U.S. probe comes after French authorities said in 2015 the Eugene bid, which was controversially awarded without a bid process, was under investigation as part of a wide-ranging probe into the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the sport’s governing body. Oregon organisers have denied any wrongdoing.

“The Eugene bid adhered to all ethical standards for organizing and presenting our bid, and the decision to award the 2021 World Championships to Eugene was made by a vote of the IAAF Council,” organisers said at the time.

Lananna was elected unopposed as president of USATF in 2016 and has served as president of both USATF and TrackTownUSA since.

The dual roles have concerned USATF board members over a potential conflict of interest. Lananna has played key roles in the 2021 bid, TrackTownUSA-conducted U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene and the TrackTown Summer Series.

The board in October passed a resolution calling for Lananna not to become involved in anything that could lead to a conflict of interest.

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