MONTE CARLO: Sebastian Coe severed his links with Nike last night (Thursday) despite maintaining they did not represent a conflict of interests and declaring that "perception and reality" had -become "horribly mangled".
Amid mounting pressure to give up his paid role with the sportswear giant, the International Association of Athletics Federations president announced he had reluctantly terminated the pounds 100,000-a-year deal.
Coe went public with the -decision two days after an email emerged showing that he had discussed the award of the 2021 World Championships to Eugene with a senior -executive at Nike.
Denying the revelation had any bearing on his decision, Coe nevertheless admitted the "noise" around his ambassadorial role at a time when the IAAF is engulfed by sport's biggest drugs scandal had convinced him to let it go.
Making a point of revealing the IAAF's ethics commission had cleared him to keep the position with the sportswear giant, he said: "It is clear that perception and reality have become horribly mangled.
"The current noise level around this ambassadorial role is not good for the IAAF and it is not good for Nike. And, frankly, it is a distraction to the 18-hour days that I and my teams are working to steady the ship."
Coe also confirmed he would stand down as chairman of the -British Olympic Association after next summer's Rio Games and had imposed an embargo on the sports marketing firm he chairs, CSM, tendering for work with the IAAF.
Speaking after an IAAF council meeting in Monaco, Coe said that dealing with the crisis, in which his predecessor, Lamine Diack, and other senior officials had been -arrested on suspicion of taking bribes to cover up doping, required an "unflinching focus".
But asked whether he believed the Nike deal represented a conflict of interests, he replied: "No, I don't believe it was a conflict of interest. I've always declared my interests with Nike, as I have across a range of activities."
Coe denied the leaked email -exchange between a senior executive at the firm and the 2021 World Championships bid leaders from Eugene - which is a Nike stronghold - suggested otherwise.
The correspondence shows that Craig Masback, business affairs -director of Nike's Global Sports, -relayed a conversation with Coe about the bidding process to the Eugene team. That process ended up being scrapped, with the -American city awarded the IAAF's flagship event in April to the fury of a rival bid from Gothenburg.
"As an ambassador of Nike, I would have been discharging my duties as per normal," said Coe, who insisted he gave identical information about the process to both -bidders. "I was being asked that question on a daily basis by many, many people, including the media."
Coe appears set to be compensated for the loss of his Nike job by becoming a paid IAAF president, which would require the support of his council colleagues. Frankie Fredericks, the chairman of the IAAF's athletes' commission, said: "The athletes' commission would want somebody at the helm - especially after what Seb has given up - to be paid, to get remunerated, to make sure that he gives a professional job for the sake of the athletes."
Conservative MP Damian Collins, a member of the Culture, Media and Sport select committee, posted on Twitter: "Even though Seb Coe has given up his Nike job there are still questions to answer about the awarding of the Eugene 2021 World Championships."
Coe vowed to act if any evidence of corruption emerged over that decision.