In the wake of news that his defamation proceedings against Paul Kimmage will be heard in court in December, UCI president Pat McQuaid has refuted the claim that he is opposed to the freedom of the press.
McQuaid, former UCI president Hein Verbruggen and the UCI itself launched their joint action against the journalist and former professional rider in January of this year, seeking damages of 8,000 Swiss Francs each. They have also demanded that Kimmage take out advertisements in the international media publicising the court’s final order.
Speaking at a press conference in Valkenburg on Saturday, McQuaid denied that his action constituted an attack on the free press, pointing to the fact that the UCI has also launched equivalent proceedings against Floyd Landis.
“First of all, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on that as there is a court case coming up,” McQuaid said. “Secondly, we have reported and stated already why we have done this and thirdly, we have also done the same thing against Floyd Landis. So it’s not a question of the press, it’s a question of the UCI.”
McQuaid and Verbruggen are understood to be suing Kimmage in response to criticisms he levelled against the UCI in an interview with L’Équipe in 2011. The Irishman also published an extensive interview with Landis in The Sunday Times in January 2011, the full transcript of which subsequently appeared on nyvelocity.com, in which Landis detailed his encounters with the UCI hierarchy.
Cyclingnews asked McQuaid why he had not taken legal action against L’Équipe or The Sunday Times for publishing the allegedly defamatory comments, but instead pursued Kimmage personally through the courts.
“You’ll really need to ask our lawyers, I’m not going to comment on this,” McQuaid said.
Kimmage confirmed during the week that he has received a subpoena from the Est Vaudois district court, which is based in Vevey, near UCI headquarters at Aigle, and the case will be heard on December 12.
Garmin-Sharp rider David Millar is working at the world championships for the BBC, and he was among those present at McQuaid’s press conference. He told Cyclingnews that the case against Kimmage was ill-advised, particularly with far more pressing matters at hand, not least the fall-out from the Lance Armstrong doping case.
“I think that it’s a stupid thing that they shouldn’t be doing because it’s a tiny little thing in the big picture of what’s going on,” Millar said. “It’s just naïve of them to think that’s important, because it is just going to damage them more.
“And let’s face it, Paul’s been the strongest voice in anti-doping in the sport for twenty years and nobody would listen to him. Now everybody is talking about it and everybody’s with him, and now he’s the one guy getting persecuted by the UCI. That’s a bit of a strange thing.”