MILAN (VN) — Paul Kimmage put the UCI on its back foot on Thursday by requesting a criminal investigation into the actions of its two leaders, president Pat McQuaid and his predecessor, Hein Verbruggen.
The Irish journalist hit cycling’s governing body as it is reeling from the Lance Armstrong doping scandal, a week after announcing it would suspend its defamation suit against Kimmage and seek the formation of an independent commission to investigate corruption claims.
Kimmage is taking a few days off in Portugal to celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary after filing his request for an inquiry. The request allows for a Swiss public prosecutor and police to decide whether McQuaid and Verbruggen will face a criminal hearing.
When asked what would be the ideal outcome of his request, Kimmage replied with a laugh, “To see both of them behind bars!”
“The ideal outcome is that they’ll be held account for the decisions that they’ve made over the 14 years since Lance Armstrong won his first Tour,” Kimmage told VeloNews. “Generally, they’d be held accountable for the way they mismanaged the sport for the last 20 years.
“I use that time frame because it’s relevant to myself, when I wrote ‘Rough Ride’ and was dismissed as a whinger, somebody who was never any good and was bitter. … That’s where they’ve been actually consistent in the last 20 years. Anyone who’s actually stood up and tries to tell some truth about this sport has been dismissed and treated really shabbily.”
Kimmage wrote “Rough Ride” when he retired in 1989 to document his four years as a pro and his personal encounters with the sport’s doping problems. He continued as a journalist and often crossed swords with the UCI. His articles last year with The Sunday Times, and an interview with France’s L’Equipe newspaper, put him in hot water after he highlighted the UCI’s acceptance of a $100,000 donation from Armstrong — ostensibly to assist the fight against doping — and allegations that it overlooked positive tests.
McQuaid gave a nod to Kimmage’s anti-doping crusade two weeks ago when he defended his decision to sue the journalist for defamation. The UCI sought around 8,000 Swiss francs and a printed apology.
“I would agree that he’s been a consistent anti-doping advocate,” McQuaid said. “[But] it’s a defamation case, and it’s not against the Paul Kimmage that I know. … It’s not about that. I know him well, and he’s a fellow Irishman. A guy who calls me corrupt, and calls the institution that I lead, the 100 people that work in it every day, I can’t accept that and I have to defend that.”
The two were ready to battle in a Swiss court on December 12, and a defense fund was created to support Kimmage. As of Friday it had collected some $88,000.
On October 26 the UCI announced it would suspend its case while an independent commission works to investigate allegations of corruption, the same ones Kimmage spoke of last year. That committee has yet to be formed.
As the dust settled, Kimmage struck back. In a press release from his lawyer, he announced that he requested “the opening of a criminal investigation for slander/defamation, denigration and for strong suspicions of fraud.”
He and his lawyer, Cédric Aguet of Bonnard Lawson International Law Firm in Lausanne, sent a 28-page document with 55 exhibits to the public prosecutor in Vevey, Switzerland. The prosecutor could ask police to investigate his claims and report back. At that point, Kimmage and the UCI may receive a new date — this time, for a criminal case.
“This was happening before they suspended the action against me,” Kimmage told VeloNews. “The position they placed me in was that I actually could not defend myself. Had the hearing taken place on December 12, I was not in a position to bring any witnesses. The way things were served to me was totally wrong. They didn’t tell me what my rights were … none of that was explained to me, it was really badly done. …
“Cedric thought, ‘Okay, the thing you actually need to do now is to launch a criminal complaint and include all of that information, the way the summons was served and the way you’d been treated … [to] allow you the means to defend yourself.’”
Kimmage will enjoy his break in Portugal and return home. Come Monday, he will continue his work on an autobiography with rugby player Brian O’Driscoll.
“It’s in the hands of the Swiss police now,” said Kimmage. “It’s allowing me some breathing space and to get on with things I need to do in my life basically.”