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While I find it intriguing, fascinating, shameful and embarrassing, I try and not to focus on the politics of cycling on the pages of this blog too much. It can get rather murky at times and while I don’t remain ignorant to the issues, I prefer to use this platform to showcase the beauty of cycling rather than dwell on it’s ugly side. However, my guiding beacon to whatever I write on this blog is to “do what’s good for cycling”. Unfortunately this sometimes leads to topics which can get messy. Which brings me to Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen’s lawsuit against cycling journalist Paul Kimmage…
Paul Kimmage doesn’t see his job as a cycling journalist to be popular. He’s tirelessly questioned the integrity of cycling, whether it has to do with its governing body, the UCI, or drugs in the sport. That might sound like an obvious job for a journalist, but imagine what this would be like:
Every since I began writing this blog I’ve been increasingly interested in the journalistic aspect of cycling. The deeper I get involved with cycling, the more conflicts of interest become apparent. Sponsors allow teams to exist, sponsors allow the journalists access to their riders for interviews, sponsors advertise in media, and if a journalist writes unfavorable things in an attempt to uncover truth, he or she can be denied future access. Without this access, it’s difficult to make a living in cycling. Have a read at Rupert Guinness’ “A moment of truth” which he recently wrote which gives an insight to being blacklisted.
It’s easy for us to judge and point to the moral highroad while sitting on the outside, but it’s not such a simple dilemma. Journalists don’t always get paid very well and it’s a life on the road surrounded by the people who you need to be friendly with to get access, but aren’t necessarily friends. But we’re all human and friendships develop, career ambitions prevail, and biases form. Would I be any differnet? I highly doubt it, and this is why I hold journalists like Paul Kimmage in such high regard.
Paul Kimmage was never part of the complicit media. He is among a small group of journalists who have the bravery to say the things that others were thinking out loud. He is now being sued for defamation by Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen, current and former presidents of the UCI. McQuaid and Verbruggen are suing Kimmage because of the contents of a 2011 interview with Floyd Landis where he made accusations of doping by Lance Armstrong and accused the UCI of covering positive doping tests by Armstrong (Floyd Landis was also sued last year). The contents of the interview were published on NYvelocity.com, in the Sunday Times and the French publication l’Equipe . The UCI bosses are suing Kimmage directly, rather than suing the media who published the allegations.
The Sunday Independent reported that McQuaid and Verbruggen told the Swiss District Court that Kimmage has caused them ‘annoyance’ and that their ‘reputation has been seriously damaged’ by the published articles.
It’s worth noting that McQuaid and Verbruggen are only suing for 8000 Swiss francs. Not a lot of money, but it is for Kimmage who is jobless after being let go by the Sunday Times in early 2012 during a series of editoriay lay-offs. As David Walsh noted in cyclingnews, “The question is this: why would UCI go after Kimmage and not go after Tyler Hamilton and publishers of The Secret Race?”
In The Explainer, a weekly feature on Red Kite Prayer which is well worth the read, Charles Pelkey concludes that this lawsuit is commonly referred to as SLAPP:
In looking at the three cases – Pound, Landis and Kimmage – I frankly have to conclude that the current and former presidents of the UCI are engaged in a practice often referred to as a “SLAPP.” The Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation is essentially a suit filed with the intention of keeping critics silent, by targeting a select few of them in a public battle.
The idea is to burden those critics with the costs – in both time and money – of defending against a suit, and sending a message to anyone else that a making a critical public statement may cost someone more than it’s worth … or at least more than they can afford.
Two of the great cycling blogs out there, NYVelocity and Cyclismas, have generously set up a Kimmage defense fund using Chipin to help with his legal costs. So far 334 people have contributed
$10,800 almost $12,000.
I find it shameful that Paul Kimmage, an award winning cycling journalist with two decades of experience (and ex-professional cyclist) who has risked everything in the name of truth and accountability to the sport that we all love, is the subject of this lawsuit when there are much more important things needed to be done in the sport. Kimmage has been a leader in maintaining a high standard of cycling journalism to bring forward transparancy, uncover corruption, doping, and make cycling a sport which has credibility and sustainability. Twitter does not replace good journalism and if journalists are intimidated into supression then cycling will become a mockery akin to WWF wrestling (which it already is to outsiders). Paul Kimmage may be an inconvenience at times, but I believe that journalists like him are a large part of why cycling can no longer get away with its dirty past.
The economics of cycling will not change anytime soon and the same conflicts for journalists will always be present in its current business model. However, a change of guard may be in order and McQuaid is up for re-election in 2013 where he has announced that he intends on running for another term (he was first elected in 2005, he was then re-elected in 2009). Inner Ring had a post about how the election process is done and it doesn’t appear that he’ll be leaving anytime soon. However, I feel the beginnings of an uprising taking place and even the sport’s most high profile profile cyclists are speaking out.
UCI = SHAMEFUL. They continue to sue Kimmage which is disgusting and Verbruggen speaks out proving he must have nothing to do with cycling.
— David Millar (@millarmind) September 21, 2012
Will Kimmage take the Lance Armstrong strategy and not contest the lawsuit? He told Velonation, “My reaction to this can be summed up very simply. Unlike Mr Verbruggen and Mr McQuaid, I do not accept donations from Lance Armstrong, so I am not really in a position to defend this,” he said. “Hell will freeze over before I issue either of those gentlemen an apology for anything.” Good on ya Paul. I’ve made my donation and I hope you will fight this.