In their heated debate at an Amgen Tour of California press conference in 2009 Lance Armstrong famously questioned the worth of Paul Kimmage’s chair. Lance need not ponder any longer for Kimmage’s cathedra currently ranks at $87,000. By the end of the week that total could rise to $100,000 from donations. Such has been goodwill and support extended to the journalist in his public battle with the UCI.
As soon as the governing body announced that they were suspending their defamation against Kimmage the inevitable rumours of a counter-suit began to surface. A week later and the Rough Ride author has delivered: A 28-page document with 55 exhibits of evidence that will be presented to a Swiss judge who will in turn decide if Hein Verbruggen and McQuaid have a case to answer over counts of slander/defamation, denigration and "strong suspicions of fraud".
“This is for everyone who stands up for the truth and anyone who exposed the doping problem in the sport and were treated appallingly by McQuaid and Verbruggen over the last 20 years,” Kimmage told Cyclingnews late on Thursday evening.
“It’s justice for the kids who came into the sport and thought they had a chance of achieving their dreams but ended up in coffins; justice for all the kids who wanted to achieve their dreams without doping and were forced out of the sport because they didn’t have a shot and justice for those that were left with a choice, cheat or be cheated.”
Kimmage says he was tempted to walk away when McQuaid and Verbruggen called off the Aigle hounds last week, suspending the proceedings. The UCI also announced a number of primary measures, including the initiative to set up an independent body via a third party tasked with investigating several damning claims against them. It could have signalled a truce between Kimmage and the two men who have run cycling since the 1990s.
“If I’m being honest, and I’m trying to be honest, when I heard last week that they were going to suspend their action against me it came as a huge relief. A big part of me wanted to say move on with your life and forget about it, move on with your life and pick up the pieces. For the last two months I’ve not been able to think about anything else, it’s just dominated every thought I’ve had.”
“But there was part of me that said look you’ve got an obligation and duty to all of those people who have put their hands in their pocket and tried to help me when I was at my most vulnerable. I’ve an obligation to carry out what they’ve asked me to do, which is take the fight to the UCI and to hold them to account for the mess they’ve made of the sport for the last 20 years and ultimately that was the overriding feeling I had. I also have an obligation to all of the people dumped on by Verbruggen and McQuaid over the years for standing up and telling the truth.”
Both McQuaid and Verbruggen have always denied allegations of corruption but time and time again the pair have been caught out, as much by their own inept statements as by the voices they’ve tried to quash. From Verbruggen’s insistence that Armstrong never, never, never doped, to McQuaid’s claim that he’d not read Kimmage’s ‘boring’ interview with Floyd Landis [the same one he sued over], to the UCI’s contradictory statements surrounding Armstrong’s donations, to Verbruggen admitting he couldn’t find Landis, to the UCI’s botched handling of the USADA case. Kimmage doesn’t need a single cent to portray such artless dexterity.
“Hopefully they won’t be able to sleep because in that sense they’ll get a sense of what my life has been for the last two months. So if it’s cost them one night they’d identify with it,” Kimmage says, briefly straying into the personal and away from what he believes is the most important task.
The search for accountability
“The end game is accountability,” Kimmage says when asked what he’s hoping to achieve. “I want them to be held for account for the mess they’ve made of this sport. I don’t want one penny from any of them. Justice, truth, that’s the endgame.”
More tangible than that, like triple Tour de France winner Greg LeMond, Kimmage has publicly called for Verbruggen and McQuaid to fall on their own swords and the Irishman insists that the sport can only move forward if both men are removed from office.
“That job can't start without McQuaid and Verbruggen being dismissed or resigning from their positions, that’s the very first thing. There’s much more but that the first thing that had to happen.”
Part of Kimmage’s dossier of evidence may include instances of McQuaid persuading individuals to remain silent during the FDA and USADA investigations.
“In May 2010 when Landis went public with his truth McQuaid was going around telling the people being investigated to keep their mouths shut and that everything would be okay and that the investigation was going nowhere. That’s a truth I’m really looking forward to bringing to the court, should we have our day.”
“This is very much for Landis. The case they initiated against me was the result of an interview that I did with Floyd. Everything he said since then has been shown to be true. What Verbruggen and McQuaid have been about since that interview is suppressing the truth.”
Verbruggen and McQuaid’s decision to back down from their pursuit of Kimmage came with little explanation. The likelihood is that pressure from the management committee at the UCI, a sense of priorities and final realisation of public sentiment were probably major factors, but should Kimmage have his day in court, the cycling world will be watching. Legal attacks and counter attacks, it’s almost as exciting as bike racing.