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French investigate choice of Eugene, Ore., for world track championships

Sebastian Coe at a press conference in Monaco on Nov. 26.

Sebastian Coe at a press conference in Monaco on Nov. 26.

(Lionel Cironneau / Associated Press)

“Track Town USA” -- otherwise known as Eugene, Ore. -- made headlines earlier this year when it was named as the first American city to host the prestigious world track and field championships.

Now that decision has come into question.

French prosecutors acknowledged they have launched an investigation to determine if corruption, money laundering or other crimes were committed when international track officials awarded the 2021 competition.

After an unsuccessful bid for the 2019 championships, Eugene was selected in April in an unexpected decision that did not involve the standard bidding process.

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“We have suspicions, otherwise we wouldn’t open an investigation,” a French prosecutor, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press. “We are within our rights to have a look. But there may be normal reasons [for the Eugene award] that will lift the suspicions.”

The international track federation is already under scrutiny, with former President Lamine Diack facing criminal charges for allegedly taking bribes in other matters.

In regard to Eugene, there have been questions about conflict of interest because the current president -- Olympic champion Sebastian Coe -- has a long-standing relationship with Nike, which is based a couple hours north in Portland.

Coe has repeatedly defended the 2021 selection process.


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