Athletics-Host cities hit back over suggestions of corruption

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By Mike Collett LONDON, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Cities hosting major athletics events that bring international prestige and recognition rejected on Friday suggestions by a commission investigating graft in the sport that bidding for every major world championship since 2009 may have been corrupt. A long-awaited report by the independent commission of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had also raised concerns about awarding of the 2020 Olympics to Tokyo. Its findings form part of a broader scandal rocking global athletics involving athletes' use of drugs, official graft and high-level coverups. The report on the sport's governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), called for police to investigate the award of world championship events. London (2017), Doha (2019) and Eugene in the United States (2021) are the next three hosts. Report co-author Richard McLaren said on Thursday there was enough information to justify a serious investigation into bidding. "The process by which those decisions were made, who made them, why did they make them and why did other cities not get selected, needs to be investigated." Similar doubts have been raised in world soccer, currently hit by its own corruption scandal, over the bidding for World Cup tournaments to be held in Moscow and Qatar. The World Championships, while not the "money-spinner" that is the Olympic Games, are a chief focus for international athletes and a showcase for track and field. POLICE INVESTIGATION Controversy surrounds in particular the Eugene championships, awarded without any competition. IAAF president Sebastian Coe cut his ties with Nike after claims he faced a conflict of interest due to the sportswear company's connection to Eugene. Event organisers TrackTown USA said they were "deeply disturbed and saddened by the allegations in the independent commission report" but stood by their bid. "We have complete confidence in the integrity of our bid for the 2021 World Championships and continue to strongly believe that the IAAF Council's strategic decision was based on the merits of our bid," TrackTown said in a Statement. A statement from USA Track and Field added: "We believe that the Council's decision on 2021 was the right one for the right reasons. We of course would fully cooperate with the IAAF on any actions or requests that they deem appropriate." The decision to award the championships to Eugene without alllowing Sweden's Goethenburg to make a bid came after a presentation to the IAAF's Council by former president Lamine Diack, who is now being investigated by French police over corruption. UKA, the governing body of British athletics, said its campaign to stage the world championship in London was unblemished. Ed Warner, UKA chairman, told the Press Association: "We have nothing to hide and we would be delighted to spend any amount of time going through our processes with the investigators if that helps root out any miscreants." The International Olympic Committee (IOC), which suffered its own corruption scandals in the 1990s and underwent a fundamental re-organisation, cited commission chairman Richard Pound as saying on Thursday he did not believe there would "an issue with the Olympics". The WADA IC report suggested around US$ 5 million of sponsorship money may have been a factor in swaying the vote of Diack to vote for Tokyo rather than Istanbul, which declined to pay the money. Hikariko Ono, a spokesperson for the Tokyo 2020 Games, denied that on Friday, saying the reference in the report to the Tokyo decision was "beyond our understanding". "The Games were awarded to Tokyo because the city presented the best bid." The report concluded that the IAAF had failed to govern properly and allowed corruption to take place with cover-ups going to the very pinnacle of the sport under Diack's presidency which ended last August. He was succeeded by Coe who has admitted he now presides over a "failed organisation". (Additional reporting by Mitch Phillips/Gene Cherry)

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