AP NEWS

USA Track & Field sidelines Lananna

February 20, 2018

The governing body of track and field in the United States says it has placed Vin Lananna on temporary administrative leave after learning that Lananna and Eugene-based TrackTown USA were contacted “months ago” by federal authorities investigating corruption in the sport.

Lananna serves as president of USA Track & Field, a volunteer position to which he was elected in 2016, and as vice chairman of its board of directors. He also serves as president of TrackTown USA, which led lobbying efforts to bring the 2021 World Outdoor Track & Field Championships to Eugene.

“USATF has no reason to believe TrackTown and/or Mr. Lananna have done anything wrong and understand that they have been told that they are not a target of the investigation,” USATF board chairman Steve Miller said in a release. “But to avoid any conflict or appearance of conflict of interest in relation to the investigation, the board voted to place Mr. Lananna on temporary administrative leave until the Department of Justice investigation pertaining to TrackTown and the 2021 World Championships is resolved.”

The decision came after The Register-Guard contacted TrackTown and USATF last week with detailed questions suggesting TrackTown was cooperating with federal authorities in their investigation of the International Association of Athletics Federations and its awarding of two world championship events. In response to those questions, TrackTown CEO Michael Reilly released the following statement Friday:

“TrackTown USA stands fully behind the integrity of our bids to host the IAAF World Championships in 2019 and 2021. We adhered to all ethical, legal and IAAF rules for organizing, presenting and advocating for both of our bids. As with any legal matter, we will fully cooperate with the appropriate authorities.”

Lananna did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Lananna had been at odds with members of the USATF board of directors over perceived conflicts stemming from his dual roles with TrackTown and USATF, according to sources. As first reported by The Oregonian, the USATF board passed a resolution in October barring Lananna from taking part in discussions related to his outside organizations, including TrackTown, Oregon Track Club Elite and entities linked to the 2021 World Championships.

The vote came after USATF’s outside counsel addressed the board regarding conflicts of interest and principles of good governance. Lananna has not been accused of financial impropriety, but members of the board were uncomfortable with the appearance of the president having say in financial decisions that could benefit his outside interests.

Money routinely flows between USATF and TrackTown, which has organized the Olympic Trials and U.S. Outdoor Championships at Hayward Field at the University of Oregon. USATF paid TrackTown $749,500 in 2016 for event hosting and management, according to USATF’s Form 990 filed with the IRS, and has pledged $6 million toward the 2021 World Championships.

The BBC reported in June that the FBI and the IRS were investigating the IAAF’s decision to award the 2021 World Championships to Eugene without a formal bidding process, and a Jan. 31 report in The New York Times stated that federal prosecutors had issued grand jury subpoenas related to the case. In response to that report, entities tied to Eugene’s bid — including USATF and the University of Oregon — denied having knowledge of the investigation.

When contacted by USATF in response to the New York Times report, TrackTown stated that it could not discuss the investigation, according to a source. USATF subsequently learned that TrackTown had been contacted months ago by federal law enforcement, a fact Lananna did not disclose to his fellow board members at the time.

It appears Lananna also did not disclose that information to the UO, where he is employed as an associate athletic director. Spokesman Tobin Klinger said the university “recently learned that TrackTown USA did receive contacts from the U.S. Department of Justice” and has offered to assist the DOJ investigation.

University policy requires employees to notify the general counsel’s office immediately upon receiving a subpoena or summons related to university business. Though Lananna’s university job description includes “attract(ing) major national and international events to Eugene,” Klinger said the UO didn’t consider TrackTown’s contact with the Justice Department a university matter.

“At this time, we have no reason to believe that Vin’s work for the university is a factor,” he said.

Bringing the World Championships to Eugene has been a long-held ambition for Lananna and TrackTown. The organization poured considerable effort into a bid for the 2019 World Championships, only to have the IAAF award the games to Doha in a surprise vote.

Follow Austin Meek on Twitter @austinmeekRG . Email austin.meek@registerguard.com .