Paul Kimmage Interview: Armstrong, the UCI and the true winners of those Tours
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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Paul Kimmage Interview: Armstrong, the UCI and the true winners of those Tours

by Shane Stokes at 7:22 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Doping
 
"In terms of the future of the sport, it cannot finish with him”

Lance ArmstrongPaul Kimmage has said he is very satisfied with USADA’s decision to give Lance Armstrong a lifetime ban and to strip him of his seven Tour de France titles, saying that justice has been done but also stating that the examinations need to go beyond the Texan.

Kimmage has written for much of his journalistic career against doping in sport, with his book A Rough Ride documenting the use of performance enhancing substances in the peloton. In recent years he has been one of the most outspoken critics of Armstrong, and clashed with the rider at the press conference at the 2009 Tour of California.

Responding to a question by Kimmage about why Armstrong appeared to show such tolerance for riders who had previously tested positive, the-then Astana rider publically blasted the Irishman.

Three years later, Kimmage sees that same rider in a very different position; retired, his name damaged by a flow of information about what appears to have been systematic doping on the US Postal Service team, and now declared guilty by his own national anti-doping agency after he decided not to contest the charges. Many of his fans may remain loyal but there is no denying that the Armstrong brand has been seriously damaged in the years that have followed that Californian confrontation.

Kimmage welcomed this week’s news, but sees it as a start rather than an end. “Honestly, I feel elated. Finally we have got some semblance of justice in that he has been stripped of his titles,” he told VeloNation. “I feel slightly disappointed that we didn’t get to hear the full breadth of evidence against him, because I think then there would be no doubt in anyone’s minds the extent to which he cheated and the degree to which the governing body was complicit in that cheating.”USADA has said that evidence will be released in due time; Kimmage will hope that much of the detail which has been gathered will emerge, thus removing the current grey area which exists for some people.

He stresses the need for things to go further. “Ultimately as elated as I am about Lance and him being stripped of his titles, in terms of the sport, it has never been about Lance for me. It has always been about the sport and its future,” he said. “It is not enough that we strip him of his titles and there is an asterisk beside his name as a cheat…we just need to ensure it doesn’t happen again, or at least make it less likely to happen again. Unless there is accountability from the UCI, then that is not going to happen. In terms of the future of the sport, it cannot finish with him.”

In the interview below, Kimmage confirms that he is still the subject of legal action from the UCI. It started in January and sees his fellow Irishman Pat McQuaid and Dutchman Hein Verbruggen, the current and former presidents of the UCI, each seeking damages of 8,000 Swiss francs (about €6,600) from Kimmage. In addition to that, they are demanding that Kimmage pays for advertisements in international media publicising the final judgement of the court.

“I’m not being flippant about the case, but I’m absolutely dismayed and astounded that the UCI’s idea of fighting doping is to start chasing people like me and start bringing people like me to court,” he said. “That for me is totally reflective of why the sport is in the mess the sport is in now. Bjarne Riis and Johan Brunyeel are paraded and applauded as leaders within the sport, and I’m chased through the Swiss courts and vilified. That is totally reflective of what is f**king wrong with this sport, and why it is in the mess that it’s in.”

Kimmage believes that the UCI’s recent moves to demand evidence from USADA and indeed to block its action against Armstrong is a clear indication that it is not working for real transparency within the sport. “They have left nobody in any doubt whatsoever that they have been in bed with Armstrong since 1999,” he said.

VeloNation: How do you feel about USADA’s Armstrong verdict?

Paul Kimmage: Honestly, I feel elated. Finally we have got some semblance of justice in that he has been stripped of his titles. I feel slightly disappointed that we didn’t get to hear the full breadth of evidence against him, because I think then there would be no doubt in anyone’s minds the extent to which he cheated and the degree to which the governing body was complicit in that cheating.

So that is the only negative in it for me, that we didn’t get to hear the evidence. I think that would have been the perfect ending for me, that everybody would understand exactly what he did and how he did it.

VN: Some people have looked at the mess that is created when you take away the jerseys, given that some of the people in second were doping as well. But would you accept that this ruling is less about the past and more about the future of the sport?

PK: It is totally about the future. I don’t care for all this talk about who is the rightful winner. The rightful winner of those Tours is out there, and I’d say he is out there and he probably knows who he is. If you finished top ten in 1999 and you know if you competed clean, there is a good chance you know you won that Tour fairly. I don't have the list in front of me, but I could go down and speculate as to who that would be.

But there are rightful winners of all of those races. I don’t know how far down the classification sheet you have to go before you find them, I don’t know how you would identify them, and I don't want to say ultimately that doesn’t matter – of course it matters, it is actually important, but such is the complexity of it…how do you identify the real winners?

What is probably more important is the future of the sport. As I said earlier, that is the only negative in this, in that we don’t know the degree to which the UCI was complicit in this. We don’t know the evidence, we don’t have the evidence, but what we do have already is a fair indication from the mouths of the UCI themselves the degree to which they were.

They have absolutely disgraced themselves over the last month. They have left nobody in any doubt whatsoever that they have been in bed with Armstrong since 1999. When you consider that, then you have to worry about the future of the sport. Where is the accountability now? Who is going to hold them to account for that? How will anything change?

Is Pat McQuaid going to resign as he should do, tomorrow, saying, ‘look, sorry here folks, we should never have taken this money. I should never have stood up and acclaimed Hein Verbruggen as the best cycling official the sport has ever had. I should never have defended Lance Armstrong at every opportunity in the last ten years.’ Is he going to say that? Not a chance, but that’s what he should say if he had any degree of integrity at all.

In terms of the future, that is the worry. The UCI are accountable to nobody, they carry on and some other champion who comes along with the ability to draw in a bigger audience outside of cycling is given the same clearances that Lance got.

Ultimately as elated as I am about Lance and him being stripped of his titles, in terms of the sport, it has never been about Lance for me. It has always been about the sport and its future. It is not enough that we strip him of his titles and there is an asterisk beside his name as a cheat…we just need to ensure it doesn’t happen again, or at least make it less likely to happen again. Unless there is accountability from the UCI, then that is not going to happen.

In terms of the future of the sport, it cannot finish with him.

VN: USADA says that Armstrong can play no further part in the sport, and it is seeking the same with Johan Bruyneel. Do you think it is important to remove certain influential people with questionable pasts from cycling in order to help its future?

PK: Do you want a list, because I’ll draw a list up now? We can start with Bruyneel right at the very top, and it goes down to Bjarne Riis and more beyond him. That is what should happen now. These people have to be removed from the sport. That is the next element after accountability from the UCI.

I have said it a long time now – we need root and branch surgery. No place for Bjarne Riis, no place for Johan Bruyneel, no place for Jim Ochowicz, John Lelangue. We will look at what people have done and said about doping for the last 20-odd years; we’ll make up a list. ‘Okay, this is how we will move on.’ It is maybe idealistic and impractical, but that certainly is where I would start.

VN: You have had some tough dealings with the UCI – where is that at the moment?

PK: Well, at the moment they are suing me about statements I have made about Armstrong in l’Equipe and the interview that I did with Floyd Landis. That is an ongoing process.

And where it is at the moment, the Swiss court sent me what I’ve been charged with and I’ve responded to those charges and I’m awaiting their response to my defence of those charges, basically. My defence has been…look, I acknowledge that Floyd Landis was very critical of Hein Verbruggen but I’m just doing my job, basically.

VN: I guess, had the Armstrong case gone forward and proven allegations of improper details between him and the UCI, that some of that would have supported your case. Obviously, you’ll hope that such evidence will come out in some other way?

PK: Absolutely. I’m not being flippant about the case, but I’m absolutely dismayed and astounded that the UCI’s idea of fighting doping is to start chasing people like me and start bringing people like me to court. That for me is totally reflective of why the sport is in the mess the sport is in now. Bjarne Riis and Johan Brunyeel are paraded and applauded as leaders within the sport, and I’m chased through the Swiss courts and vilified. That is totally reflective of what is f**king wrong with this sport, and why it is in the mess that it’s in.

VN: Do you think what happened to you is about stopping other people from being as outspoken?

PK: Yeah, probably. But again, what does that tell you? That’s the Omerta, it all goes back to Omerta and shutting people up. What happened when Floyd sent his letter to the UCI and he made all of the charges - what happened to the investigations that McQuaid announced then? The governing body was going to investigate various people, but what happened to those investigations? Did they ever see the light of day? It’s just talk.

Unfortunately, the only action they take is against people like me. I’m currently unemployed…anti-doping is not profitable and it’s not popular, and it’s pretty appalling that I’m deemed to be the problem.

Well, if I am the problem here, that’s reflective for me of them as people, and of the organisation, and of the mess the sport is in.

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