Garmin-Sharp manager Jonathan Vaughters has defended Paul Kimmage’s integrity in light of the Irishman’s legal case with the UCI.
Vaughters, who allowed Kimmage to be embedded in his team during the 2008 Tour de France, has also said that a cloak of fear may have discouraged a greater number of riders and team managers from defending Kimmage.
“I feel like it’s unnecessary and that Paul is being unfairly singled out,” Vaughters told Cyclingnews when describing the UCI’s defamation case.
The sport’s international governing body began legal proceedings against Kimmage earlier this year and the action stemmed from a body of work for The Sunday Times newspaper, which includes an extensive interview with Floyd Landis published in January 2011, and in response to criticism of the UCI that Kimmage expressed in an interview with L'Équipe. The UCI chose not to pursue legal action against Tyler Hamilton after the former US Postal rider leveled severe allegations at the feet of the UCI in his book "The Secret Race". The UCI are also in the midst of a legal case with Floyd Landis but former UCI President Hein Verbruggen told Cyclingnews last week that, "The problem is we can't find Landis."
Kimmage received a subpoena on September 20 from the Est Vaudois district court, which is based in Vevey, near UCI headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland. The case is to be heard on December 12. An online fund to help Kimmage with legal costs was set up by websites nyvelocity.com and cyclismas.com within hours and donations currently stand at over $40,000.
However relatively few riders from within the peloton or team managers have publicly added their support. Vaughters and Garmin’s David Millar are among a small minority, which Vaughters aligns a sense of possible recrimination for speaking out against the UCI.
“I think that there’s an overarching fear. What the consequences could be. Is it going to hurt your team’s WorldTour licensing prospects, for example? Is it somehow going to put you on a blacklist? I think there’s fear of that. Whether that fear is sensible or not, I don’t know but I would say that’s probably the reason. There’s some fear in the professional ranks that the consequences could be very high if you say something the UCI doesn’t like.”
"He's very honest"
Kimmage, the author of the acclaimed “Rough Ride” spent a sustained period with Garmin during their debut season in 2008, closely following the team during the Tour de France. The experience helped to rekindle his passion for professional cycling, with the team being one of the first teams to take a public stance against doping.
“In the begining a lot of the guys thought, well isn’t this a journalist who just writes nasty things about cycling, but by the end, every rider who met him, liked him and respected him," Vaughters recalled.
"Our impression of Paul had become ‘wow this guy is very much in love with the sport of cycling and he just wants to see the sport go forward in a positive and ethical way’. That’s basically it. My opinion of him couldn’t be higher.”
Kimmage and Vaughters’ relationship hasn’t always been rosy. In 2010 in light of the Luis de Moral story that involved a Garmin rider being tested by the controversial doctor, Kimmage was critical of the team’s behaviour and handling of the episode.
“If you do something he doesn’t like he’ll tell you straight to your face and there’s no beating around the bush and I appreciate that. He’s very honest," Vaughters said.
“Paul is very passionate. He asked some very hard questions in regards to that. He had the right to ask those questions. When it was resolved he appreciated the way our team reacted. There was a while when I think he felt ‘have I been deceived by this team?’ and that’s fine but after a certain point he saw we’d done the correct thing. At the end of the day I see Paul as someone who had the best interests of the sport of cycling in mind. For the governing body of cycling to be suing him I think is sad.”