IAAF president Sebastian Coe announced Thursday that he had stepped down from his paid role as an ambassador for Nike to focus more on cleaning up world track and field's beleaguered governing body.
"It is clear that perception and reality have become horribly mangled," said Coe. "I've stepped down from my ambassadorial role with Nike, which I've had for 38 years."
The situation was "not good for IAAF and not good for Nike", according to Coe.
Coe, unpaid as head of track and field's world governing body, received around 142,000 euros a year for his global ambassadorial role for Oregon-based Nike.
The Briton, a two-time Olympic gold 1500m medallist, is accused of lobbying disgraced predecessor Lamine Diack to hand Eugene the 2021 world championships.
Bjorn Eriksson, who led a rival bid by Gothenburg for the 2021 championships, said Coe telephoned him on Wednesday to say it had been wrong to give the event to Eugene without a formal bidding process, The Times reported.
Coe insisted, however, that he had not been responsible for the decision that was made in April.
"I don't believe it was a conflict of interest," Coe stressed.
The decision to step down from Nike "was purely on the need to focus on challenges ahead with my colleagues and particularly the executive teams here at (IAAF) headquarters", he said.
The job at hand, Coe said, "needs an unflinching focus and the 'noises off' are clearly a distraction and I can see that".
Coe added, however, that he had sought advice from the IAAF Ethics Commission, who said the Briton could have continued in his Nike role as long as he "clearly and consistently declared all my interests".
Eriksson also said Coe had indicated that the Eugene award was being investigated by French police as part of a corruption inquiry into the IAAF leadership of Diack, who stood down in August.
Diack is also under investigation over allegations that he took bribes from Russian officials to cover up positive drug tests by athletes.
"If I understand Sebastian Coe correctly, he said, 'I agree that the procedure wasn't correct', but he claims he wasn't involved in this, others are," Eriksson said.
Coe had been a strong supporter of Eugene's bid for the 2021 championships and was part of the IAAF council that voted this year to abandon the normal bidding process.
Nike, which was founded in Eugene, was also a powerful backer of the bid. And the BBC said Tuesday it had seen an email in which a Nike executive said Coe had assured him he would "reach out" to Diack on behalf of Eugene.
Rugby Sevens is set for an exciting start to a game-changing season as the 2015/16 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series sprints into action next week (December 3-5), with Olympic legend Michael Johnson.
The four time gold medallist will star as a special guest of HSBC at the opening tournament in Dubai, to celebrate the start of a series that will culminate in Rugby Sevens being played at the Olympics for the first time at Rio 2016.
During his Dubai visit Johnson will meet with both Men’s and Women’s teams, including the USA, to pass on his experience and advice ahead of the landmark season
– Dubai overrun with Color in 'Happiest 5k On The Planet'
– NATIONAL SPORTS DAY: AD hopes for big turnover
With rugby continuing to grow as a global force following a hugely successful World Cup in London, the series, which kicks off in Dubai on the 3rd December, is being billed by long term rugby supporter HSBC as a golden opportunity for the development of the sport.
Ahead of the trip, Johnson said: “I’m looking forward to heading to Dubai, meeting the sport’s fans and, of course, the players.
"From all my years in athletics, I know just what it means to compete for your country at the highest level, particularly in an Olympic Games.
"The start of this season is a huge moment for them and it’s a huge moment for the sport.”
“Dubai, as the starting block for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, is sure to be a supercharged tournament that will set the tone for ten ground breaking months of rugby, so I can’t wait to get involved.”
This year’s series already represents a major turning point for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Firstly, the Series has grown to ten locations worldwide; joining the iconic and ever popular events in Hong Kong and Dubai and well-established venues in London, Wellington and Las Vegas are the new host cities of Cape Town, Sydney, Vancouver, Singapore and Paris.
HSBC is also the first-ever title sponsor of the Women’s World Series, taking place in conjunction with the men’s series.
HSBC is a long term partner of Rugby Sevens and today Giles Morgan, Head of Sponsorship and Events at HSBC, spoke about the significance of this season in particular: "HSBC has been a committed supporter of rugby around the world, but this feels like a pivotal moment for the game.
"The opportunity over the next 10 months is huge. World Rugby, unions and sponsors are committed to converting the opportunity.
"The gold medal for rugby will be to use Rio 2016 as a catalyst to drive even greater growth, participation and engagement in the game."
The Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens, the first leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, takes place from Thursday 3rd December to Saturday 5th December.
Over 100,000 sports fans are expected to walk through the gates at the Sevens Stadium across the three days of world class competition.
Follow the conversation @HSBC_Sport on twitter and HSBC Sport on Facebook.
World athletics chief Sebastian Coe has denied allegations of a conflict of interest over his ties with Nike and his role in the 2021 championships being awarded to the sportswear company’s home state.
Coe is believed to earn around £100,000 (Dh57,000) a year as a Nike ambassador but faces calls to cut links with the company due to possible conflicts of interest arising.
He is facing questions over the IAAF’s decision in April to award the 2021 world championships to Eugene, in the United States – which is closely linked to sportswear giant Nike – without a bidding process, despite strong interest from Swedish city Gothenburg.
Here is the email from a senior Nike executive which poses questions for Lord Coe pic.twitter.com/FZm73dtCyZ
— Mark Daly (@BBCMarkDaly) November 24, 2015
Coe, who was elected IAAF president in August, has denied doing any lobbying on behalf of Eugene. A BBC investigation has claimed to have email evidence of emails that Coe contacted he predecessor as IAAF president to support Eugene’s bid.
However, Coe yesterday refuted all allegations, saying: “I did not lobby anyone on behalf of the Eugene 2021 bid. The situation was unusual but not unprecedented. A bid process did not take place when Osaka was awarded the 2007 World Championships.
“The process for bidding is already being reviewed as part of a wide range of reforms currently being prepared.”
Coe was elected president of the IAAF in August after spending eight years as deputy to Diack, who is being investigated by French police on suspicion of having taken bribes to cover up positive drug tests.
The timing of the allegations of Coe’s conflict of interest is not great for either the former two-time Olympic 1500m champion or the IAAF.
The IAAF Council meets in Monaco on Thursday to discuss Russian track and field, just three weeks after deciding to temporarily suspend them. But Dick Pound, former WADA president and co-author of the independent commission’s report, has expressed his expectation that Russian athletes would be in Rio as their sporting officials push to quickly comply with WADA rules.
Pound did add that the second part of his report, focusing on alleged IAAF corruption and likely due in early 2016, would have a “wow factor”. He said: “I think people will say how on earth could this happen?”