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IAAF president Lord Coe accepts the governing body of world athletics is "under serious investigation" but has denied its crisis is comparable to the turmoil affecting FIFA.
Coe was speaking following a BBC report that French prosecutors are to examine the decision to award the 2021 World Championships to the American city of Eugene.
The former Olympic 1,500 metres world champion was elected as president of the IAAF in August, succeeding Lamine Diack whose tenure is being closely examined by French police amid allegations of corruption and doping cover-ups.
Coe quit his role as an ambassador for sportswear firm Nike last month, two days after allegations surfaced that he lobbied for Eugene to host the World Championships. The city has close links with Nike and was awarded the championships in April without a bidding process, despite strong interest from Swedish city Gothenburg.
Coe has insisted his actions were entirely above board, and said on Thursday: "We have selected cities before not within a bidding cycle."
Vin Lananna, president of TrackTown USA which had pushed for Eugene to be handed a World Championships, said in The Oregonian: "We are very proud of and stand by our bid. We are 100 per cent confident that there was nothing outside of what are the norms for an IAAF bid."
But Coe admitted before he took the helm at the IAAF there may have been deals done of which even senior figures within the organisation, including Coe himself, were not made aware.
He said on BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "(The conduct of the IAAF under Diack) is now a matter of police investigation and I can't maintain a running commentary on that. If that has happened, that will take its normal course and people will be prosecuted."
He would welcome prosecutions if accusations could be proven.
"If they have done that yes, because that would be abhorrent," Coe said.
"It would be abhorrent whether it was across contracts; it would be abhorrent whether it was conniving in distorting anti-doping practices."
Coe conceded he did not know everything that was happening within the IAAF while serving as a vice-president.
"That I'm afraid is the traditional model for sport. Don't predicate sport on well-run FTSE 100 (companies)," he said.
"That is the big challenge I've got. O f course it's got to stop and those are the changes I'm making - wholesale restructuring of the governing body, bringing on accountability and responsibility. P eople have got to know how to challenge the system."
Asked if the IAAF saga was "as big as FIFA", in reference to the corruption crisis surrounding world football's governing body, Coe said: " I don't believe that, and I'm not remotely walking away from the seriousness of the situation.
"We're talking about a criminal investigation which is looking at a handful of people. T hat's of no comfort to me."
Assessing where athletics goes now, Coe said: " I have a very, very clear road map for what we need to do.
"If you're saying that too much power sat in the hands of too few people and the walls were too high, then you're right."
He added: "I'm not under any illusion here, I'm president of an international federation which is under serious investigation."
Russia remains in danger of being excluded from athletics at the 2016 Olympics, unless it meets criteria set down by the IAAF after a culture of doping was exposed.
Coe said: "If Russia does not meet the change laid out in that criteria its clean athletes will sit it out."