Kimmage selecting legal defence backing as ‘energised’ journalist prepares for UCI court action
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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Kimmage selecting legal defence backing as ‘energised’ journalist prepares for UCI court action

by Shane Stokes at 8:39 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Doping
Irishman staggered by show of support from public, defence fund to exceed $40,000 after one week

Paul KimmageJust over a week ago things were very, very different for Paul Kimmage. UCI legal action pending, no lawyer, no funds to fight a case. Fast forward eight days and the landscape has completely, utterly changed and so too his prospects in the matter.

The publication in various media outlets of the UCI’s decision to press forward with a defamation case led to a strong reaction from fans. Jaded with the doping problems in the sport and demoralised with the UCI’s handling of such matters, large numbers condemned the action on Twitter. This accelerated when Kimmage and fellow Irishman and anti-doping journalist David Walsh set up accounts on the social media network, gaining thousands of followers each in a very short period of time and putting across their points of view.

Simultaneously, a ChipIn fund started last Thursday by the Twitter user Digger Forum and hosted by the websites and provided a platform for people to help Kimmage with his defence.

The reaction has been staggering. At the time of writing, the fund had almost reached the $40,000 mark, with over 1200 individuals feeling strongly enough about the UCI’s action to reach into their own pockets. Given that number is likely just a partial representation of feeling on the matter - not every objector can or will donate, after all - the court action has been described in multiple reports as akin to a PR disaster.

That’s not just limited to the cycling press either; mainstream media outlets have also been questioning of an organisation accused of inaction on the drugs issue, and awaiting receipt of a reportedly-highly damaging report from USADA, suing a known anti-doping journalist.

VeloNation spoke to Kimmage the day after he received the court summons, and again on Thursday of this week. He said that things had utterly changed in the meantime. “Where I am at now is at a completely different place to where I was exactly a week ago,” he said. “It felt like this was a lone battle that I wasn’t sure how I was going to fight. I was very much frustrated and somewhat worried this time last week.

“Seven days later I am just completely energised by the defence fund which has been set up, by the good will which has come my way and by the sense that there are a lot of people that are not happy with how the sport is being run; that I am now the conduit to voice that, through which they can actually express that.

“It is a completely different place to where I was a week ago…absolutely.”

The former Tour de France rider admits that he has been utterly taken by surprise by what has happened. “I couldn’t envisage that this would happen,” he said, clearly grateful by the show of support. “Absolutely not. This is beyond any dream or expectation that I would have had.”

Years later, an about-turn:

Kimmage doesn’t object to the suggestion that he has been in the wilderness for years; by that, we mean that he has been an outsider in the same sport he used to practice, on account of the wariness of some riders to engage with an outspoken critic of doping, of the sport’s administrators to acknowledge that he was writing to improve the state of cycling, not damn it, and of the fans who preferred to believe the sport was about heroes and supermen rather than Jekyll and Hyde.

He’s been ostracised for challenging and questioning, but now things have done an about-turn. Many are recognising that there was there was much truth in his writing about mistruths.

“It started with the book, it started with Rough Ride. For eight years until Festina I was an extremely angry person because of the reaction to that book,” he admitted. “After Festina it got easier – for the first time, some people came up to me and started saying, ‘you know, you were right, we had no idea how bad it was.’

“But the reality is that 22 years after Rough Ride, what did it change? What effect did it have? In some ways you must consider that it did nothing, essentially, in terms of the doping problem.

“Yet what it did do - and what I am only really becoming aware of now and appreciative of - is that while it didn’t change anything in terms of how the sport was governed or any of the decisions which were made, it certainly changed the way that people looked at the sport, thought about the sport, and thought about the doping problem.

“In that context it served a huge purpose. And that’s something that has really, really come home to me in the last few days. A week ago when this suit arrived, I would have said, ‘what the f*ck was the point of it all?’ Now I see the point, I absolutely see the point.”

In truth, he sounds like someone with a load off his mind. He sounded weary, and wary, after the UCI’s subpoena arrived summoning him to the Tribunal D'Arrondissement de L'Est Vaudois on December 12th. With no regular income since being made redundant by the Sunday Times earlier this year, he was facing a daunting challenge.

Now while he knows a fight lies ahead, he has people by his side and a mass of support. He’s also got renewed conviction. “It is a great thing to happen. I have just come back from a walk with Ann [his wife],” he said. “She is nervous as this is unchartered territory for us both. I am nervous too, but I am also extremely energised by what has happened. It has definitely turned from a negative into a positive now.”

Lawyering up:

The fund has enabled Kimmage to seek strong legal representation and he is getting close to finalising things in that area. He said that while he couldn’t get into specifics, that he had spoken to lawyers on Thursday and that he was hoping to determine his legal representation by the weekend.

“We have made contact, we have got to sit down and meet and flesh it all out and decide where it is going,” he said. “We have to decide what we have got to do now and how we defend it. That still has to happen. But I am in the process; it is not signed, sealed and delivered yet, but I am confident that I have found someone who can do the job for us.”

As for speculation that he could file a counter suit, he said it was far too soon for such talk. “At the moment I am going to deal with the pile of shit that is on my plate – when that is dealt with, we will see what happens after that,” he clarified. “I have got more than enough on my plate at the moment with what they have thrown at me. We will deal with that first and then work out what comes next.”

The case is clearly a big one for Kimmage. But so too for the UCI, particularly if - as claimed - the pending USADA report into Lance Armstrong does contain evidence of corruption. The UCI denies that is the case, while the American agency seems equally adamant that Armstrong had help in sidestepping a doping issue in 2001.

The UCI will receive the file by October 15th at the latest, as will WADA. Kimmage’s hearing comes just under two months after this. And while there have been suggestions this week that the public release of the Armstrong investigation might not occur until the end of the year, the Irishman will presumably seek details earlier as part of his defence.

If it turns out there is any evidence of corruption, what started out as a high powered organisation’s battle against an out-of-work journalist could become more a case of David versus Goliath.

Paul Kimmage’s defence fund is here 


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