Paul Kimmage Defence Fund Passes $20,000

Monday, 24 September 2012

Covering the malfunctions of cycling’s governing body is like riding into a headwind. It is tiring, progress is slow and sometimes you’d much rather turn around and go the other way. But the story of the UCI suing Paul Kimmage matters because it’s becoming more than a legal dispute.

With the right defence – aided by new revelations in print – it is possible Kimmage could win case. But sadly the UCI is fast-approaching a point where it will lose no matter what the court verdict is because the case looks selective and vindictive. But there’s still time to fix this.

As background Paul Kimmage is a journalist but rode as a pro in the 1980s. He left the sport frustrated, in part because of the doping culture and recounted this in his autobiography “A Rough Ride”. He was ostracised for speaking out, proving the omertà he denounced. The book won awards and his writing opened up a career as a journalist. Kimmage was a persistent critic of the UCI and doping and rose to become Chief Sports Writer of London’s Sunday Times.

In 2011 did a lengthy interview with Floyd Landis. Landis talked freely, the full transcript is on NYVelocity.com and a good read if you have the time. But the UCI’s Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid didn’t enjoy the piece and claimed he accused them of “having knowingly tolerated tests, of being dishonest people, of not having a sense of responsibility, of not applying the same rules to everyone”.

Target Kimmage
Normally a press release would be used to rebut these claims – they did it with Gerard Vroomen – but the UCI sicced the lawyers on Kimmage, a highly unusual move although the UCI has sued the likes of former WADA boss Dick Pound and Festina dope mule Willy Voet. Note the UCI is not suing The Sunday Times who printed the story but Kimmage himself. Journalist and lawyer Charles Pelkey has a good piece in his Explainer column at redkiteprayer.com:

the suit is little more than an elaborate press release and an attempt to send a signal to Kimmage and anyone else with a mind to criticize the way this sport has been run for the last 20 years

Pelkey points out that it’s easier to sue an individual like Kimmage rather than a national newspaper.  A media company has in-house lawyers and can deploy a near-limitless pot of money merely to defend principle. Pelkey writes:

I frankly have to conclude that the current and former presidents of the UCI are engaged in a practice often referred to as a “SLAPP.” The Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation is essentially a suit filed with the intention of keeping critics silent, by targeting a select few of them in a public battle.

The idea is to burden those critics with the costs – in both time and money – of defending against a suit, and sending a message to anyone else that a making a critical public statement may cost someone more than it’s worth

It’s hard not to agree. Note the UCI won’t sue Tyler Hamilton, Daniel Coyle and Random House despite similar claims in “The Secret Race”. In choosing Kimmage but not Coyle this risks appearing to be a personal vendetta against someone who has been a consistent critic of the UCI. Kimmage been right and fearless for a quarter of a century. He deserves an apology from the UCI, not a lawsuit.

Can Kimmage Win?
I’m no lawyer but Swiss law seems as clear as the country’s mountain air. Here’s the concise definition of defamation under the Swiss Criminal Code:

Any person who in addressing a third party, makes an accusation against or casts suspicion on another of dishonourable conduct or of other conduct that is liable to damage another’s reputation.

We could joke that Verbruggen and McQuaid’s reputation is so low that Kimmage didn’t do any additional harm but that’s subjective. Let’s stick to the law as the Code goes on to explain something that seems crucial for Kimmage’s defence:

If the accused proves… … he had substantial grounds to hold an honest belief that it was true, he may not be held guilty of an offence.

In other words if Kimmage can show grounds to believe what Landis told him was true then he might not be guilty. Better still for him, a handy guide to defamation for Swiss journalists by Yves Burnand, a lawyer with a doctorate in Swiss law, states (para 12, my translation):

the truth is an objective proof: it can be based on elements which the author did not have knowledge of at that moment in time when he held his litigious views

So Kimmage can present information available today that was not in existence before. For example Landis claims are now corroborated by The Secret Race and the USADA report on the US Postal/Discovery team doping may well give him “substantial grounds” he needs. And this is just the start, Kimmage could invite others to give testimony in support. In short, Kimmage may be able to present a strong case by the time the case appears in December.

Beyond the Law
It need not come to court. The UCI started its legal action some time ago, long before the USADA revelations and before the days when Pat McQuaid briefly came out in support of “truth and reconciliation”. If the facts might have changed, but the mood certainly has and the UCI could drop this although I suspect they won’t.

McQuaid takes aim: at Kimmage or his own foot?

However this is now turning into a PR disaster for the UCI, a case that they cannot win because even if the court rules their way it looks bad. Instead of upholding a reputation for good deeds, Verbruggen and McQuaid risk damaging their public image no matter what the ruling. And worse for them, far from squashing a pesky journalist, it’s given him a platform and a status he didn’t have before.

This is where the fund comes in. Set up by fellow bloggers Cyclismas and NY Velocity it has raised over $20,000 to help Kimmage in his defence. I think many want to support Kimmage directly. But this also reads like a form of proxy war against the UCI where irate fans can get the UCI in court. These senior officials often appear wholly unaccountable and even block uncooperative journalists who get too critical. But you can’t blacklist a judge.

Fans have every right to be confused, even angry. Just last Saturday President McQuaid said “the UCI has nothing to be apologetic about” despite being in charge of a sport that just seen its biggest name banned for life after industrial doping for over a decade. Surely it didn’t get everything right?

Conclusion
One case in a Swiss court says plenty about the way the UCI is managed. Pursuing Kimmage whilst others won’t face legal action suggests even when it comes the law Verbruggen and McQuaid act inconsistently, deploying UCI funds to bully people they dislike.

Kimmage could even win the case if supportive evidence corroborates him. But no matter what happens in court this is starting to backfire. Verbruggen and McQuaid don’t enjoy reputations as the world’s most competent sports official and this case makes them look worse. Worse this case is damaging cycling’s governing body further. We need the UCI more than ever, but as a governing body with confident leaders who demonstrate the kind of fairness they expect from athletes.

Kimmage thought he was going alone into the UCI’s legal headwind but hundreds of people have committed thousands of dollars to help him. Each donation is the equivalent of taking a small pull on the front to help him along. You can donate as little as a dollar… or as much as you like with the average donation around the $35 mark.

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{ 51 comments }

Andy Ryan September 24, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Having just read “The Secret Race” in two evenings I guess anything the UCI does should not surprise me. If you also read the details in the story on Cycling News today http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/french-sports-minister-calls-for-uci-to-uphold-armstrong-sanction then you really have to question how long the UCI can carry on without a change at the top.
I’m off to donate my £’s right now!

Tom September 24, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Isn’t the lawsuit by the UCI against Kimmage a direct violation of the UCI motion adopted at the Congress of the UCI in its meeting of 21 September 2012 in Maastricht, the Netherlands which states in part:

“The Congress of the UCI confirms its confidence in the management of the UCI in its fight against doping over the years ; asks the Management Committee of the UCI :

… to ignore attempts to exploit commercially or otherwise the painful aspects of cycling’s past.”

McQuaid and Verbruggen are using the UCI resources to sue Kimmage for money for his examination of the painful aspects of cycling’s past.

The Inner Ring September 24, 2012 at 10:24 pm

It’s certainly contrary the “let’s look forward instead of rake up the past tone”.

But I didn’t like the motion. Every time we get a scandal in the sport we get the same reaction from the UCI: a desire to look forwards and a statement that the UCI is trying hard to eradicate doping. Yet it never works and I think we’d do better to examine the past and learn lessons from it.

Bryan September 24, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Kimmage has today said that there are ‘other more worthy causes, and he feels humbled at the support being given’. I guess he could be right, but in my book he has shown himself to have the courage of his convictions. Whilst other journalists sat on their hands and kept their pen silent, making themselves part of the problem, Kimmage (and a few notable others) told the truth as they saw it. Events of course have proved him/them right. The man is now unemployed, and being hounded by two small minded men with seemingly little in the way of principal. This is indeed yet another dreadful chapter in the recent history of the UCI, led by little men who appear to be accountable to nobody.

I for one am only too happy to contribute, if for no other reason than one of morality. Kimmage and the sport needs to win this case, and then some focus must be placed on the UCI and its leaders.

Birillo September 24, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Call me cynical (I prefer “cautious”), but is Cyclismas International a bona fide fund raising organisation? What proportion of the funds raised will go directly to Kimmage’s defence, and how much to “expenses”? I’m happy to contribute, but some reassurance wouldn’t go amiss.

The Inner Ring September 24, 2012 at 10:45 pm

It’s a fair point. See the comment below from UCI Overlord who is one of the Ciclismas writers.

Also, here’s Paul Kimmage himself:

Buddenbrook September 24, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Thanks Inner Ring. I’ve donated £25. Always liked ‘A Rough Ride’. Good for Kimmage.

Tom from Raleigh September 24, 2012 at 9:39 pm

The UCI is using their power to target an individual who seeks to make the sport better. This reminds me of Verbruggen’s action against Graeme Obree.

Ronan September 24, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Interesting line that ‘we need the UCI more than ever’. I suppose the question is, do we need or want THIS UCI? I am all for a string governing body, but fail to see a Phoenix rising from the flames of this shambles in Aigle.

cd September 24, 2012 at 10:23 pm

702 people have donated so far. That’s a strong statement against the UCI. I donated just to register my complaint against McQuaid and the UCI. They should represent me, us, the fans, the amateur racers, but they don’t.

UCI_Overlord September 24, 2012 at 10:29 pm

To answer Birillo comment. Cyclismas International isn’t a fund raising organisation. We aren’t a non-profit. We are a group of individuals who run a satirical website who have friendship with Paul and the means to provide him support in his time of need. Imagine being SLAPPed with a “lawsuit” after you’ve lost your only source of income. Ironic timing isn’t it?

Paul Kimmage receives 100% of the funds. Period. End of Story. There are no administrative fees, no management fees. This a good ol fashioned let’s help Paul out because he damn well deserves it. Think back to the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” That’s what this is about. People helping people from the heart. They are used for him to defend himself against this action nothing more.

Thank you to the 706 people have donated. You are DIRECTLY helping turn the tide. Slainte!

Birillo September 25, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Thank you.

Nick September 24, 2012 at 10:42 pm

Just when you thought the UCI couldn’t possibly spring any more surprises with the level of their own stupidity they pull the proverbial rabbit right out of their @rses. Is it possible to impeach a sitting president? And wouldn’t it be better for everyone if the UCI members did this?

Given that the accusations from Landis and others formed the basis of the USADA case against Armstrong, and that the UCI is set to ratify the USADA ban on Armstrong in the near future, they surely can’t then argue against the same information in a different case, or is that too much common sense for McQuaid deal with?

daniel September 25, 2012 at 6:22 am

McQuaid isn’t going to go anywhere unless his position somehow becomes untenable.

The number of votes he can gather from incosequential cycling nations mean he’ll probably be here for another term too. Europe gets 14 votes and Asia, Africa and Oceania get something like 20.
Politics, money, corruption etc.

Hard to be optimistic about cycling’s future.

Salsiccia September 25, 2012 at 10:06 am

Maybe the federations should withdraw from being under the UCI, and form their own body. That would leave the UCI nothing to govern.

Cynic September 24, 2012 at 11:24 pm

Good stuff UCI_Overlord.

Jcox bar September 24, 2012 at 11:28 pm

Have admired Kimmage since I read rough ride a few years back. Even if he is rather cantankerous and absolutist in his approach (eg implying sky must be dopers cos they wouldn’t give him unfettered access during tdf). What this story shows is the power of social media on modern politics including sports politics. This has blown up in just days since Walsh started his twitter feed. By the time we ge to a December hearing in Switzerland Kimmage will be able to hire some hotshot lawyers!! And the PR for mcquaid will be soooo negative.

On another note his book with Matt Hampson Engage is also a very good read

Ad September 25, 2012 at 12:04 am

Very true, I have a great deal of respect for Kimmage, but not unthinking support for everything he says. I think why this has been so successful (and why I’ve very modestly chipped in), as inrng says, is that people with different views are coming together under the common banner of clean cycling and holding those in charge of the sport responsible for their words and actions, and the culture they create, or at least allow to develop.

Vanilla_Thrilla September 24, 2012 at 11:28 pm

This lawsuit reminds me of a certain PR disaster initiated by a famous global toilet chain (as well as providing public lavatories they also sell a few hamburgers).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McLibel_Case

Larry T. September 24, 2012 at 11:54 pm

Kimmage shouldn’t be bankrupted for telling the truth and asking questions – isn’t this what JOURNALISTS are supposed to do? Too many are little more than mindless shills who’ll say or write anything to keep the checks coming in and the boss’ happy. I was happy to make a small donation – if he wins the lawsuit and collects a pile o’ swiss francs from the Mad Hatter and Mr. Mars, he need not return my small donation – instead have a few pints to celebrate! Perhaps that will be the final gust of wind needed to blow the UCI’s house-of-cards over so it can be rebuilt as a transparent sanctioning body for the sport instead of corrupt old boys network?

Gavin September 24, 2012 at 11:54 pm

What would be interesting to me – and I don’t think you’ve covered it?? – is to have a quick recap of the UCI’s election process in terms of how people become president and what the procedure is, also to look at some of the other personalities within the UCI. It seems to me that McQuaid rules the UCI like it’s his own personal fiefdom and he doesn’t account to anyone for his actions but there must be other board members and country specific representation???
If you look at the people the UCI seems to have issues with Dick Pound, Michael Ashenden, Paul Kimmage then they are all on the anti-doping side. My perception is that the UCI is at best negligent and at worst complicit in allowing doping to continue within cycling.
I’d love to imagine that the peloton is largely clean but articles like the below lead me to think that I would be naive to adopt such a view. As Michael Ashenden pointed out it is only when steps to eradicate the omerta within cycling are taken that the sport can move forward. No-one should have to go through what Paul Kimmage has.
http://www.cyclismas.com/2012/09/back-to-the-future/

The Pelican September 25, 2012 at 8:15 am

That’s actually a really good point Gavin. IMO the UCI shouldn’t actually be able to be a member of the IOC as it is a discriminatory organisation. It’s constitution ensures that a European will only ever be President and also be the majority of the all powerful management committee. It’s not one-nation/one-vote, it has a built in Euro-bias. This alone will ensure that McQuaid gets the support he needs… well that and the fact that the Oceania rep is in McQuaid’s pocket!

Any how, inrng, I reckon it would be a good story to pursue and explain how it all works.

The Inner Ring September 25, 2012 at 11:06 am

Good idea. Actually I have covered this before but the rules have changed so I’ll dust off the old piece and update it sometime this week.

Ad September 25, 2012 at 12:08 am

I wonder if the ballot resembles that of the most recent elections at FIFA:

http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/SPORT/Pix/pictures/2011/6/1/1306941116767/Fifa-ballot-form-007.jpg

Pete September 25, 2012 at 12:27 am

As a lawyer, the UCI is on a hiding to nothing here.

There is possibly nothing worse than giving an opponent, who takes issue with you based on principles alone, a platform to state his views.

Kimmage can call evidence in support of his defence, and given the public nature of the case, it will be fodder for every broadsheet and tabloid in the UCI member nations.

McQuaid cannot possibly risk an adverse finding that the UCI tolerated doping, which is the inference drawn if Kimmage succeeds. There is far more for the UCI to lose than Kimmage; I predict that the UCI will walk away before a verdict with the usual PR, “we want to get on with the real issues facing cycling today,” and, “prosecuting the case would have taken up valuable resources away from grassroots cycling” etc

Martin W September 25, 2012 at 12:39 am

I’m not a lawyer but I think your reading of part of the Swiss Criminal Code is too pessimistic. You wrote:

‘”If the accused proves… … he had substantial grounds to hold an honest belief that it was true, he may not be held guilty of an offence.”

In other words if Kimmage can show grounds to believe what Landis told him was true then he might not be guilty.’

I would say that “He may not be held guilty” means “he CANNOT be held guilty”, not “he MIGHT not”.

The Inner Ring September 25, 2012 at 11:04 am

Let’s not get our hopes up too much and certainly supporting claims from others will help corroborate Kimmage/Landis.

Martin W September 25, 2012 at 11:33 pm

Quite right but as Nathan J says my point is a grammatical not a legal one: the verb “may” here is used to express (lack of) permission, not possibility.

Permission: “The rules say you may not retransfuse your own blood.” http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/may_2

Possibility: “It may not be wise to do this yourself with blood you kept in your fridge.” http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/may_1

Apologies for going off-topic. Grammar nerd, can’t help it.

Nathan J September 25, 2012 at 8:54 pm

The German is
 Beweist der Beschuldigte, dass die von ihm vorgebrachte oder weiterverbreitete Äusserung der Wahrheit entspricht, oder dass er ernsthafte Gründe hatte, sie in guten Treuen für wahr zu halten, so ist er nicht strafbar

‘so ist er nicht strafbar’ in my reading translates ‘then he is not punishable’, which is as Martin W says.

Tricky Dicky September 25, 2012 at 1:52 am

$50 from me. I really hope Paul fights this and Tweedledum & Tweedledee are foolish enough to follow it through. As a lawyer, I am ashamed to say that $25k will barely get Paul enough funds for basic preparation of his defence, let alone representation, but hopefully he has the backing of some excellent attorneys (lots of us ride bikes these days) who will look after him pro bono (ie. for free in the public interest) and these funds can be used for covering the expenses of witnesses etc.

I remain disappointed by the lack of pro cyclists voicing an opinion on this whole mess but I suppose so many of their employers and coaches are implicated and so is the outfit that gives them a licence that it just seems too much of a risk to really take a stand.

Adrian Miles September 25, 2012 at 2:13 am

Dear Pat, I note that the French sports minister, Valérie Fourneyron, has also made similar defamatory remarks (http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/french-sports-minister-calls-for-uci-to-uphold-armstrong-sanction). I’d advise adding her to your list too, after all, if you think you have been defamed then this would be a lovely way to pay for that swimming pool in the back yard, or maybe something nice for the wife?

David September 25, 2012 at 9:31 am

I feel that I have to contribute if only to balance out against my cyclingireland membership fee, part of which goes to the UCI.

peloton.pl September 25, 2012 at 9:37 am

Now being aware of this SLAPP policy I think percentage of “The Secret Race” and similar works revenues should go into PK defense, as he is a sole victim of wider rebellion.

UCI_Overlord September 25, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Tyler Hamilton has agreed to sell memorabilia to benefit the Paul Kimmage fund. Stated it to David Walsh when Walsh was just in Montana to interview him. Walsh tweeted it yesterday.

Patrick September 25, 2012 at 9:57 am

Just contributed!

Ankush September 25, 2012 at 11:58 am

Kimmage and Tygart could bring UCI down in December. I hope Paul gets all the help from USADA albeit discreetly.

UCI_Overlord September 25, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Bringing down the UCI requires specific actions initiated by certain parties. USADA, WADA, or the AIGCP are all agencies, or even the CPA who could file a complaint to the UCI Ethics Commission (which actually has existed since 2009 but never been used) or with the IOC. We’ll see what transpires.

MikeB September 25, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Thoughts : (1) likelihood of proceeding (2) likelihood of winning. On 1. Although as you say, this was started earlier than USADA decision, my gut feeling listening to Verbruggen is that he wants his pound of flesh, McQ might be regretting this as it seems to have exploded in his face, so it depends on how much leverage McQ has with Hein .. But motivationally, as UCI is also sueing and he’s the bloody president kind of makes me think this will run the course. So 2. .. depends on legal advice, but if PK goes in there with a he/she said , say goodbye to anything positive evolving. If on the other hand, PK summons incontrovertible evidence and a list of witnesses as long as the World Champs RR , the objective becomes to carpet bomb these bozos, and for that ambitions are going to need revisiting as financially 20k is feelgood, but not much else. The IOC itself is totally corrupt, so for them to take notice of a corrupt UCI and take any action on the back of is going to take a massive bunker buster. So how good is the evidence directly relating to the claims made by PK and can our legal chappies advise us of whether it substantiates the claims ? Just saying, there’s a lot of inertia in the system so whats the
strategy ? PK says the fund is against THEM so if we need 100k we had better reframe. Just saying.

David Irvine September 25, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Are Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid using the coffers of the UCI to mount a personal vendetta? If that is is the case, then it is an appalling waste of money and speaks volumes of the individuals concerned.

Didn’t Verbruggen state recently that “I’m not in cycling any more” (Cyclingnews.com). What the hell was he doing at a World’s presentation then?

The conceit of this pair take your breath away.

daniel September 26, 2012 at 1:48 am
toestrap September 25, 2012 at 3:39 pm

You realise that you’re going to have update the headline on a frequent basis! As I post, totalized is currently at $28k – be over $30k before the day’s out!

Ian September 25, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Slightly off tack but I’d like to see Emma Pooley as head of the UCI

amd-sco September 25, 2012 at 5:27 pm

Just chipped in my $25 to help clear out the augean stables…

Kastrup September 25, 2012 at 7:20 pm

As many of you I believe a change is needed inside the UCI as it’s obvious that they are a bunch of old men with too much power on their hands.
This doesn’t just apply to doping as well as their constant battle with technological gains and ingenuity. you might also add in their handling of the whole radio debate.
I remember reading about Bruyneel wanting to make some kind of break-away league to get rid of the UCI and their seemingly only goal of making money and being in charge. Don’t get me wrong, i’m all for a unified governing body, but it seem to me that politics and money gets you a lot further than actual knowledge about cycling as a professional sport.

Daiti McBhlosca September 25, 2012 at 9:50 pm

How about suggesting doing a search for McQuad cycles Ireland and then boycott he businesses until this isuue is resolved in a satisfactory manner? Maybe Pat’s brothers and sisters could talk some sense into him.

The Inner Ring September 25, 2012 at 9:51 pm

They have the right to make a living in spite of someone in their family sometimes frustrating people.

Daiti McBhlosca September 25, 2012 at 10:13 pm

All things being equal you are right, but this is a dirty fight.
There is a finite time to it as well
It is a non violent way of saying this aggression will not be tolerated as the Dude might say.

Daiti McBhlosca September 27, 2012 at 8:38 pm

The Inner Ring has the judgement of Solomon and must have some good local intelligence as well.
Tweet from Paul Kimmage below I think confirms what the Inner Ring wisely advises.
“Paul Kimmage Paul Kimmage ‏@PaulKimmage
Darach is a brother of Pat McQuaid, the UCI President, but there is no suggestion here that they like or talk to each other.”

keith warmington September 25, 2012 at 11:51 pm

I’ve chipped in very happily. I admire the courage of Kimmage as a journalist and also really rate A Rough Ride. I think it’s totally an own goal from Verbruggen and McQuaid. The mess from the past needs to be sorted.

Roly September 28, 2012 at 11:52 am

In!!

Cycling Mum October 22, 2012 at 5:37 pm

I have made a small donation to support the ‘little guy’ who tried to tell the truth about doping and corruption in cycling, and who got ignored. It is a vote also against the UCI who today confirmed that they would continue in their the defamation action against Paul Kimmage. It is a vote against Hein Vergruggen and Pat McQuaid. I want them to resign so that we can all move on and start afresh after years of mismanagement and corruption within the UCI.

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