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MILAN (VN) — The Union Cycliste International needs to fire its heads if it is to have an impact on doping says embattled journalist Paul Kimmage. The controversial Irish rider-turned-author hit out at the UCI on Thursday, calling for foundation-shifting changes to cycling’s worldwide governing body.
“I don’t think it is possible to work within that system [but] I would hope that there are some people within who could start the change,” Kimmage told VeloNews on Thursday. “Mr. (Hein) Verbruggen and Mr. (Pat) McQuaid need to go straight away. That’s the start of it.”
UCI president Pat McQuaid and former head Hein Verbruggen, the honorary president, have sued Kimmage, author of the groundbreaking 1990 book “Rough Ride,” which detailed doping culture in the pro peloton, over damages stemming from comments made by dethroned Tour de France winner Floyd Landis in a seven-hour interview published in The Sunday Times and online at NYVelocity.com and VeloNews.com in 2011, as well as Kimmage’s own comments to L’Equipe. In that interview, Landis accused the pair of, among other misdeeds, covering up a positive doping test for Lance Armstrong at the 2001 Tour de Suisse in exchange for a cash donation.
When asked on Thursday how the UCI could improve in its management of the sport, Kimmage said much of the trouble dates back to the early 1990s. The federation has found itself embroiled in particularly divisive controversies in the last three years, including those surrounding a race radio ban, a frame-approval program, and Alberto Contador’s and Lance Armstrong’s doping cases, among others.
“They could’ve started 22 years ago by reading what I wrote, by implementing the changes I suggested,” Kimmage said. “Clearly, (Verbruggen) didn’t read ‘Rough Ride’. I don’t know if he is illiterate or he chooses not to, but I suggest that was where the start of the battle was lost.”
David Millar of Garmin-Sharp attended McQuaid’s press conference as a representative of the BBC last week at the world road championships. The Scot served a ban for EPO use and returned to cycling in 2006 to help change the sport.
“I don’t even know how you get there,” Millar said when asked if he would consider becoming the UCI president. “I don’t know, though. I wouldn’t mind living in Switzerland.”
Kimmage gave a friendly laugh to the suggestion.
“I am sure there are very good people out there, better names than the ones that are there,” he said.
Verbruggen, currently a member of the International Olympic Committee and president of the UCI and its predecessor, the Fédération Internationale du Cyclisme Professionnnel, for two decades, continues to advise McQuaid. Kimmage cautioned that change at the UCI is difficult with Verbruggen “still pulling all the strings.”
According to Kimmage, the change at the UCI must also span its anti-doping program, which includes the Biological Passport. The UCI implemented the passport program in 2008 and has since snared riders like Franco Pellizotti and Igor Astarloa. But Kimmage says the conflict of interest that exists when a governing body monitors its athletes for doping is too great — particularly when, as Kimmage believes, the federation treats select athletes preferably.
“The biological passport and all the other controls are absolutely fantastic, but they are utterly worthless when it’s selective,” Kimmage said. “When you are in a situation like that or you have stuff like that happening, all the other stuff is worthless.”
Kimmage sees McQuaid and Verbruggen on December 12 in a Swiss court. The pair are seeking approximately 8000 Swiss francs and a printed apology. A defense fund set up by bloggers Andy Shen of NYVelocity.com and Lesli Cohen of Cyclismas.com has raised more than $35,000 for Kimmage’s defense.
“The job they’ve done,” said Kimmage of McQuaid and Verbruggen, “I think it’s been an utter disgrace for the last 20 years.”
Kimmage will have an opportunity to try and prove it — and the plaintiffs the chance to disprove it — in 2.5 months’ time.