Kimmage confirms Cookson is ending UCI legal action against him
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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Kimmage confirms Cookson is ending UCI legal action against him

by Shane Stokes at 7:07 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews
 
“Brian has genuinely my best wishes that he can take the sport to where it needs to go”

Paul KimmageNew UCI president Brian Cookson has contacted Paul Kimmage to tell the journalist that he is ending a legal action instigated against him by the previous UCI leaders Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid.

Kimmage was contacted yesterday by Cookson and told that he was calling a halt to the action, which was launched last year and which had remained in limbo since last October.

In recent weeks the lawyers acting on the case had stalled on ending it, causing concern to Kimmage and prompting him to ask three days ago on Twitter what Cookson intended to do about it.

“For the record: I am still receiving letters from Reymond & Associes, the solicitors acting for the UCI, Verbruggen and McQuaid. I presume @BrianCooksonUCI that you're aware that tab is still running. And that you'll be handing that bill to Verbruggen and McQuaid?” he stated on October 7th.

Cookson sought out Kimmage’s contact details yesterday and contacted the Irishman, reassuring him that the action would not be continued.

“I had a call from him, just before he went to Beijing,” Kimmage told VeloNation. “He told me that they were in the process of issuing a release to the extent that the they are going to drop the case against me.”

In January 2012 McQuaid and Verbruggen initiated legal proceedings against Kimmage, claiming they were defamed by articles in the Sunday Times and L’Equipe. He was issued with a summons on September 19th, compelling him to attend a trial in Switzerland on December 12th.

On October 26th, days after it received and accepted USADA’s reasoned decision on Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Service team, the UCI announced that it was putting the case on hold. It was facing considerable pressure at the time due to the release of the USADA report, and had been criticised for suing a journalist who had long campaigned for a cleaner sport.

However the case was only suspended, not ended, and with the Swiss courts seeking an answer in recent weeks as to whether it would continue or not, the UCI’s lawyers were stalling.

“I was still getting letters from their solicitors,” Kimmage explained. “The last letter I got from them was about ten, twelve days ago telling me that the decision about the case had been moved back again until the end of the month…they kept moving back the deadline to decide whether they would continue it or not, keeping it open.”

Kimmage has long been a critic of McQuaid but stopped short of endorsing Cookson in the run up to the election. He has been reassured by yesterday’s pledged to end the legal action, though, and also by what they spoke about during that phone call.

“We had a brief conversation as he was on the way to Beijing,” he said. “I asked him about the legal action and the fact that he was on the management committee when it was launched. I don’t want to get into details of what Brian said as it was off record, but I’ve told him that I was very happy that it was being dropped and that I wished him all the best in the new job.”

While Cookson was on the UCI management committee since 2009, he presented himself as a candidate for change and said that if he was elected, that he would reform the governing body and seek to give it a new credibility after the doping scandals and public spats of the past.

Asked now if he believes Cookson represents a step forward, Kimmage is clear. “Absolutely. I don’t want to be flippant about him or be insulting to him, but he can’t be any f**king worse than McQuaid,” he answered. “He can’t be any worse.

“My only reservation about endorsing him [before the election – ed.] was the fact that hadn’t clarified his position on the decision to sue. Given he hadn’t clarified that, I wasn’t going to endorse him…absolutely not.”

‘Astonished but not surprised’ if McQuaid had won election:

Cookson went head to head with two-term president McQuaid in the election held during the UCI Congress on September 27th.

The long meeting saw various individuals from the UCI acting to help McQuaid overcome the issue about whether or not he had a valid nomination. At one point two lawyers were brought out to argue his case; one of them even suggested that the rescinded Swiss backing was still valid as it hadn’t been withdrawn by the closing date for nominations.

The tone of the meeting appeared increasingly farcical but, after calling for an end to arguments over nominations and requesting that a straight vote be held, Cookson emerged victorious, becoming the next president of the UCI.

Asked if he was surprised that McQuaid lost, Kimmage gives an apparently contradictory answer, but one which will be understood by many.

“I was actually surprised he lost, given how much time he spent cultivating his vote and given what he was saying about it,” he said.

“That said, I would also have been astonished if he had won, given everything that had happened in the past. I would have walked away from the sport if he had done so…absolutely and without question.

“It seems a contradiction to say that you would be astonished and yet you wouldn’t be surprised, but that is just a reflection on how bad things had been. That probably doesn’t make sense but that is how I felt about it.”

The final tally saw Cookson secure 24 out of the 42 delegate votes, and McQuaid getting 18.

“It is actually astonishing that McQuaid got as many votes as he did. That is incredible, absolutely incredible,” said Kimmage. “Everything that happened that day is just a reflection of how the sport has been run for years.

“It goes without saying that I am absolutely thrilled that McQuaid was beaten, and that I am hopeful that Brian can do a proper job.

Cookson made a wide number of promises after his election, including pledges to separate the promotion of the sport from the policing of it via the establishment of a fully independent anti-doping organisation. He is yet to finalise details of that, but working out the mechanism to do it will take time.

He has moved quicker in other areas, ending the UCI’s long running relationship with the lawyer Philippe Verbiest and also scrapping a controversial – and nonsensical – UCI rule setting age limits on women’s teams.

The weeks and months ahead will show if Cookson can deliver on what he has pledged but while it is very early days, Kimmage is cautiously optimistic.

“Now I believe Verbiest is gone and that is another step in the right direction,” he said. “I am personally very, very happy that this case has been lifted from me as it has been a huge strain on me and on the family.

“Brian has genuinely my best wishes that he can take the sport to where it needs to go. I am very hopeful of that. I look forward to sitting down with him in the near future and having a proper conversation about it.”

“I wouldn’t touch Aaron Brown with a bargepole”

When Kimmage was originally sued by the UCI, a fund was set up by the NYVelocity and Cyclismas websites to try to raise legal backing for him. The writer was out of a job, having been let go by the Sunday Times, and had been facing potentially huge legal fees.

The campaign for the so-called Kimmage Fund was a big success, with a total of over $90,000 was raised. However at the end of April the journalist learned from the Cyclismas site editor Lesli Cohen that the co-founder of that site, Aaron Brown, had transferred the fund out of the PayPal account that had been used, and that there was no longer any access to the money.

Brown refused to hand the funds over to Kimmage, essentially meaning that the money donated by individuals from around the world was either in limbo or missing altogether.

Kimmage was furious and was clear at the time that he felt betrayed by Brown, who had built up a prominent profile via his @UCI_Overlord Twitter account and interactions with people in the industry.

Brown said he would retain the funds because he was involved in a legal dispute with Cohen and also because he was facing a potential tax liability for the fund. He said he would release the money if it was needed by Kimmage to defend against any further UCI action.

In recent weeks Bill Hue, a Kimmage fund donor who also works as a Circuit Court Judge in the State of Wisconsin, launched a class action lawsuit against Brown on behalf of those who donated in order to force him to hand over the money.

Likely as a response to that, the latter recently set up a website saying that those who contributed to the fund could apply to have 70% of the donated amount refunded. He states that the other 30% has been either already paid out or is tied up with miscellaneous costs.

Asked for his reaction by VeloNation, Kimmage makes clear that he believes those who donated should be very careful.

“My position on this is that I wouldn’t touch Aaron Brown with a bargepole. This half-arsed scheme he has cooked up himself is just a means of hanging onto as much money as he can, in my view,” he said.

“I hope that Bill Hue succeeds in the actions he has taken in the States to secure what is left of the money and to get a full account of what is spent. I hope he succeeds in that and he as my full support.

“I think this is a better course of action for people. I don’t know what game Aaron Brown is playing. He has had ample opportunity…he has had months now to account for the money and to give it to a neutral third party. Nobody in my view should engage with him. That is my opinion but, that said, it is not my money. People can decide what they wish to do.”

He expresses frustration with what has happened to the fund, and the complications Brown’s actions have caused.

“I just f**king despair. I see my name being bandied about and people badgering me, asking what they should do about it. It is just incredibly frustrating to me – I have been drawn into this and my name is being thrown out there. It is just driving me crazy at the moment.”

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