On July 18, 2018, in a copyrighted article by Reuters, Gene Cherry, one of our sports’ most important commentators, wrote about the resignation of Vin Lananna, as chair of Oregon 2021, citing the need and desire to focus on the upcoming 2021 World Championships, and the legacy that Mr. Lananna hopes from 2021, which he would like to see as builiding the sport for the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games.
Mike Reilly, the CEO of Tracktown USA will be taking over much of the reigns from Lananna. But, as Reilly noted in a column by Ken Goe on Tuesday, July 17, 2018, Mr. Reilly, a highly respected manager in his own right (Mike Reilly acted as a consultant for London 2012 Olympics), has been doing much of the administrative duties and management of TrackTown USA for the recent past.
Lanannna noted, in his letter of resignation to Tracktown USA, “With the day-to-day operational structure of TrackTown USA and the delivery of Oregon21 in capable hands, the timing for me to transition my focus to the future of track and field could not be better.”
The Reuters article noted, that Kathy Hermann has been hired as interim CEO of Tracktown USA. The rumors of the existence of a highly confidential talent searched had proved to be true, as Vin Lananna was facing, to use a biblical reference, “The Trials of Job.” The investigation of the Eugene 2021 bid, by the Department of Justice, FBI, Interpol and the French Crimininal investigative units came out of a more generic search for some questionable issues in global sport, then, the Federations. With the fiasco of Lamine Diack, former IAAF President, and his son, Papa Diack, who have been alleged to have stolen millions of dollars from the IAAF, and groups interested in working with the IAAF. Lamine Diack is still under house arrest in France, with an ankle bracelet, and Papa Diack, sitting in Senegal, under protection of the current President of Senegal. Papa Diack is alleged to have secured a donation to the President of Senegal from the Russian government way back in 2013. The Lamine Diack-Papa Diack affair reads like a John Le Carre novel.
With the suggestion of graft in many situations with the Diacks, from the supposed request by the younger Diack for several hundred thousand Euros to hide a positive drug test for Liliya Shobukhova, to Papa Diack’s attempt to sell the rights to the Kenyan Federation to a Chinese company, the stench of graft is long. French authorities have attempted to extradite Papa Diack with no success. A meeting between Lamine Diack, and IAAF President Seb Coe, in judges’ chambers in Paris, scheduled for May 26, was cancelled by the elder Diack, with the reason of a malady of some sort. Perhaps it was an attack of ethics.
The rumors and suggestions around Eugene 2021 continue to blow in the wind. There was no bid process, and while the IAAF cites that there is no need for a bid process, the bidders from Goteborg, Sweden were not happy about the process .Following the alleged scandals from the Diacks, an investigation into Eugene 2021 has developed, among other concerns about the Diack’s actions.
What is going on?
That is a good question.
With no rescheduled meeting between Lamine Diack and Seb Coe, the French investigation is at an impasse. As all of France goes on vacation the end of July, nothing will happen in France, more than likely, until mid September. As the DOJ, FBI do not seem to do press releases on their investigations, much is open for conjecture.
Vin Lananna has been a man of all trades. He has coached, developed fine track meets, worked with the world’s largest sports company to rebuild Hayward Field, and champion a World Championship in the US. The sad thing was, that under both Primo Nebiola and Lamine Diack, there was not an outdoor championship in the finest track & field country in the world. It shows, more than anything, the lack of understanding by the IAAF of the USA’s position in the global sport.
The pall of impropriety hangs over Eugene 2021, more than anything, because many questions are unanswered. The best thing for the sport is for the Diack fiasco to be completed and both Diacks charged. The DOJ investigation of Eugene 2021 will continue until they DOJ has no where else to go or no one else to threaten. Vin Lananna emphasises that there is nothing wrong with Eugene, and many believe him, but the rumor mill is busy, and our sport enjoys nothing more than a rumor that spreads something malodorous about the sport. I do not see this in any other sport. Most sports go to great lengths to keep bad stories out of the main stream media. Not athletics. The easiest action for a new journalist to do at an Olympic Trials for the US is to catch up on drug rumors. Truth is this, the bad things done by Lamine Diack and Papa Diack, were reported to authorities by those who love the sport. In a strange way, the sport is trying to purge itself. It is imperfect, and it is arrogant, but it is making an effort.
In that time, Vin Lananna’s stature with USATF remains unchanged. And in the recent statement, from USATF Chairman of the Board Steve Miller makes it very clear, that until the investigation is done, there will be no changes in the status of Lananna:
“TrackTownUSA and Oregon 21 are outstanding organizations with strong leadership in place. USATF looks forward to working with Oregon 21 and the IAAF on delivering a memorable and successful 2021 World Championships.
“The USATF board of directors’ action regarding Mr. Lananna will remain in place until the matters cited in the announcement about the action are resolved.”
It is sad and profound. In a summer when the Diamond League meets are actually bringing fans to the sport, and terrestrial TV and digital TV are providing more fans access to the athletes, the questions surrounding the IAAF’s former president and upcoming championships remain open. Seb Coe, the President of the IAAF, is seen everywhere (including a sighting in Wimbledon), representing the sport he so obviously loves. Until the questions are resolved, the sport is in, to use a particularly 1960’s Catholic term, a state of Limbo or non-movement.