Tables are turning on UCI
After the Lance Armstrong revelations, the UCI’s reputation has suffered severely and to add insult to injury, the cycling body received two lawsuits this weekend.
The UCI top has not been reluctant in taking legal actions against critics but now it seems as if the tables might have turned as the cycling union received two lawsuits this weekend.
Less than one week after the lawsuit launched against Paul Kimmage by the UCI for defamation was suspended, the journalist and former professional cyclist fired back and has now taken the role of accuser and has filed a lawsuit against the UCI president Pat McQuaid his predecessor Hein Verbruggen.
According to the press release, Kimmage has sent a “criminal complaint and denunciation against Hein Verbruggen, Pat McQuaid and unknown persons against whom Paul Kimmage requests the opening of a criminal investigation for slander/defamation, denigration and for strong suspicions of fraud.”
The press release further states that Kimmage has initiated the proceedings in honour of the whistle-blowers, who have been “dismissed as ‘liars’, ‘cowards,’ or ‘scumbags’ by Hein Verbruggen and/or Pat McQuaid.”
The Irishman had a pending lawsuit against him by the UCI for publishing assertions that the UCI was complicit in covering up Lance Armstrong’s doping.
At a UCI Management board meeting discussing how to move on after the USADA report, the UCI decided to suspend the Kimmage case while an independent investigation is going on.
“We note that Paul Kimmage has launched legal action against the UCI president Pat McQuaid and his predecessor Hein Verbruggen,” UCI communications director Enrico Carpani writes in an email to VeloNews.com.
“Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen will, of course, 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.”
The ‘Kimmage Defence Fund’
A ‘Kimmage Defence Fund’ was set up by cycling websites nyvelocity.com and cyclismas.com on September 20, to pay for the legal costs of Kimmage's defence against the UCI. The fund has reached more than USD 90.000 through donations from various sources.
“When sports bodies deliberately choose to take legal action against an individual journalist, rather than pursuing their publishers, it smacks of vindictiveness,” Steven Downes, secretary of the Sports Journalists Association, said according to an article on the fund.
When asked what will happen to the fund money now that his situation has changed from defence to attack, Kimmage's answer was:
“At the moment I haven’t touched a cent of it, although I have spent some money myself on this. Those who have donated will be given the choice whether they want to continue to donate to it to what is now an offence fund or whether they want to withdraw the money. It is totally up to them what they want to do with it,” writes velonation.com.
Sponsor sues for loss of brand value
Kimmage is not the only one suing the UCI. This weekend Australian sports wear manufacturer, Skins, served a demand on the UCI seeking damages of USD 2 million as a consequence of the alleged mismanagement by UCI in the scandal.
According to a statement from Skins' chairman, Jaimie Fuller, the company feels betrayed after going into cycling believing that the sport had been ‘fundamentally reformed’.
“Consequently, it is now clear that Skins’ financial and emotional investment into cycling has been damaged and our legitimate commercial expectations have been betrayed. If the public no longer have confidence that cycling is ‘clean’ they may question those who support its existence,” the statement reads.
The official letter of demand blames both Verbrüggen and McQuaid for the loss of confidence.
“It has also been proven that the way the UCI, Henricus Verbruggen respectively Patrick McQuaid have organised 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 states, estimating Skins' loss to be USD 2 million.
Other sponsors have also reacted though no as radical as Skins. Rabobank has withdrawn as a sponsor for the team of the same name after 17 years as a cycling sponsor. So far 10 of Lance Armstrong’s sponsors have chosen to end their cooperation with him after the revelations have come to a day.