Vin Lananna, the president of USA Track & Field, has had a lot of his authority—and influence—curtailed by the board of the sport’s governing body. Why?
“Vin has been engaged in complete conflict of interest,” Steve Miller, the track and field association’s chairman, told The Oregonian. “The outcome of the vote is that he has to recuse himself from the vast majority of what he does as president of USATF. Your effectiveness as leader is greatly diminished when you can’t be in the room.”
This is laughable, partly due to the fact that Miller, a former marketing executive at Nike in the 1990s, has vehemently defended USA Track & Field CEO Max Siegel despite Siegel’s own conflicts of interest (since taking the reigns as CEO in 2012, he reportedly awarded six-figure contracts to an Indianapolis marketing firm that once advertised itself as “a Max Siegel company”), questionable decisions, and lavish spending habits. Sure, Lananna’s ties to Nike and TrackTown USA—which helped bring the 2021 world championships to Eugene without a formal bidding process—should certainly be scrutinized, but let’s be honest: the whole sport, from top to bottom, is mired in conflicts of interest. Not that it makes any of it right, but as Brooks Beasts coach Danny Mackey Tweeted last Friday, “It seems errant to single Vin Lananna out.” Sebastian Coe, current president of the IAAF, didn’t give up his six-figure-a-year ambassador role with Nike until 2015, when external pressure forced his hand. (Mind you, Coe was collecting those checks, leveraging his relationships, and wielding his influence, for the seven years he served as the organization’s vice president.) And you’d be mistaken if you thought it stopped there.
But this is the reality of the situation in track and field today—and a big reason why the sport is having a hard time moving forward at the professional level. So where do all these conflicts of interest and controversies get us? Exactly nowhere. And who suffers because of it? Not Steve Miller. Not Max Siegel. Not Sebastian Coe or even Vin Lananna. But the athletes. The fans. And the long-term viability of track and field as a professional sport.