Aussie clothing company Skins sues UCI for $2M in damages over management of cycling

Skins says UCI has harmed its brand by causing "a total loss of confidence" in cycling among the general public

Just three days after journalist Paul Kimmage filed a request with a Swiss prosecutor for a criminal complaint against UCI leaders Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen, the Australian clothing brand Skins, a longtime cycling sponsor, has likewise filed suit, seeking $2 million in damages to its brand due to the UCI’s lack of leadership in the fight against doping.

In a November 2 letter (.pdf) signed by attorney Cédric Aguet — the same attorney used by Kimmage, from the same Lausanne-based law firm, Bonnard-Lawson — Skins claims it has suffered due to “acts and omissions” by the UCI, Verbruggen and McQuaid.

Since 2008, Skins, which specializes in compression clothing, has been a supplier and a sponsor of numerous national federations and pro cycling teams, including Cycling Australia, BikeNZ, USA Cycling, Rabobank, Europcar, NetApp, Telekom and HTC-Highroad.

In light of revelations stemming from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency case against a doping conspiracy at the U.S. Postal Service team, Skins is seeking damages from the sport’s governing body.

“As a supplier and a sponsor, Skins is particularly concerned by its brand image and since it strongly believes in the true spirit of competition, it is firmly against doping,” Aguet’s letter reads.

“When it decided to invest in cycling not only as a sponsor but also in extending its product range through massive investments in R&D, Skins was under the illusion that professional cycling had been fundamentally reformed to contain doping and to minimize the risks of scandals with which the brand of any sponsor could be associated.

“It has now been proven that these legitimate expectations have been betrayed on the grounds you are aware of, which the press published at large. It has also been proven that the way the UCI, Henricus Verbruggen [and] Patrick McQuaid have organized the fight against doping, have communicated in that field and have then dealt with the case of Lance Armstrong, is the main cause for the total loss of confidence in professional cycling by the public, which harms Skins, as well as any other sponsor or supplier.”

The letter claims the acts and omissions of the UCI and its leaders have caused Skins to suffer prejudice to the tune of more than $2 million.

Proving that Skins has suffered $2 million in damages by the UCI’s actions since 2008 may prove difficult — particularly considering that 2008 marked the introduction of the UCI’s biological passport program.

In a statement on the Skins website, chairman Jaimie Fuller writes that Skins’ demand against the UCI “sends out a serious corporate message that the support of partners and sponsors in any world sport cannot be abused and must be preserved by unimpeachable leadership.”

“The unequivocal overhaul of cycling can only be achieved by a credible and capable governing body,” Fuller wrote. “In serving this action, Skins is also serving notice that the UCI is not currently the organization that cycling needs it to be. For the last 22 years, there have been two people at the head of this organization, and we allege that they are directly responsible for the culture of denial within the UCI. It’s past time for change.”

The UCI did not immediately comment on the Skins lawsuit. However, in regard to the Kimmage lawsuit, UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani told VeloNews that McQuaid and Verbruggen would “fully cooperate with the judicial authorities should they decide to start an investigation and they are completely confident it will establish that Paul Kimmage’s complaint is without merit.”