Qatar’s winning of the right to host the 2019 World Athletics Championships is reportedly being scrutinised by US prosecutors under a wider investigation into international sports corruption.
The New York Times reports that US prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas seeking new information about the world’s biggest sports organisations including FIFA, the International Olympic Committee and the United States Olympic Committee.
The US Justice Department is “exploring possible racketeering, money laundering and fraud charges related to two track and field world championship events” and executives who consulted on bids, according to one of the subpoenas.
So far investigators have solicited documents, testimony and financial records dating back to 2013.
It is understood the world governing body for track and field, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), is of particular interest to the Justice Department along with a number of sports marketing companies including Helios Partners.
The firm lobbied global sports officials to award events to cities and countries including Russia in its securing the 2014 Winter Olympics and 2018 FIFA World Cup, before being acquired by France’s Amaury Group in 2012.
Investigations are understood to be led by United States attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York, which includes the same prosecutors who spent years investigating football governing body FIFA, resulting in bribery and corruption charges against a number of officials.
Doha’s successful 2014 effort to host the 2019 athletics championships is understood to be of specific interest to prosecutors, along with Eugene’s subsequent successful bid to host the track and field event in 2021.
France’s national financial prosecutor’s office is conducting similar investigations regarding the two bids.
The scrutiny of the event, which will be held in Doha’s Khalifa Stadium in October 2019, comes amid new allegations regarding the country’s successful bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Australian whistleblower Bonita Mersiades, who was part of the country’s failed 2022 bid, said in a new book this month that Qatar’s state broadcaster Al Jazeera, now beIN Sports, promised a $100m payment to FIFA if it secured the tournament.
Mersiades alleged former FIFA president Sepp Blatter knew Qatar would win before the vote was even conducted and even called then US President Barack Obama in the days before to tell him the country’s bid would be unsuccessful.