Q&A With Paul Kimmage
Paul Kimmage spent last week preparing for a date with the international cycling federation, the UCI. He is fielding phone calls, meeting lawyers and reflecting on his 20-plus years as a journalist. This past year has had its ups and downs, or rather, downs and ups. After 10 years of service, the Sunday Times of London made redundant the Irishman this January in as part of overall cost-cutting measures. Around two weeks later, a summons arrived.
“Talk about timing,” Kimmage said on Thursday after meeting with lawyers. “It was not great to say the least. The timing made it a bit cruel.”
The UCI is seeking 8,000 Swiss francs ($8200AUD) and a public apology from Kimmage. President Pat McQuaid and former president, Hein Verbruggen claim, according to Ireland’s Sunday Independent, Kimmage was “dishonest” in accusing them of “having knowingly tolerated tests, of being dishonest people, of not having a sense of responsibility, of not applying the same rules to everyone.”
Kimmage wrote Rough Ride after he retired from cycling in 1989, which revealed the sport’s doping issues, and began working as a journalist. The UCI is more interested in his recent work. In 2011, he highlighted that the UCI allegedly received payments from Lance Armstrong (around $125,000 in 2002) and claims that it overlooked his positive test from the 2001 Tour de Suisse. He also spoke of it in an interview with France’s L’Equipe in July 2011.
This summer he thought the storm blew over. He thought the UCI forgot about him given the Lance Armstrong doping case. However, on September 19, he received a subpoena to appear in a Swiss district court, face-to-face with McQuaid and Verbruggen.
He was at his lowest point all year, he could not tell his wife for two days and was worried about the impact the case would have on three children. A couple days later, though, the Velocity.com, Cyclismas.com, and the world got behind Kimmage and a ChipIn fund was established for his defence fund. It is up to $45,840 ($44,200AUD) and enables him to face the UCI fairly on December 12.
Cycling Tips: What have the last days been like for you?
Paul Kimmage: I’ve gone from being extremely fatigued and frustrated by it to being extremely energised by it. Now I can go there and put up a defence, which wasn’t a possibility a week ago.
CT: Why is the UCI going after you?
PK: I’m astonished. I’m astonished by it. I don’t see the sense in coming after me. If they truly wanted a good name restored to them and if they truly wanted compensation for that, then they would’ve gone after L’Equipe and the Sunday times. [It] was quite vindictive and it was all about keeping me quite, getting a gagging order on me. They just want to shut me up and give me a public slap.
CT: They say you caused them ‘annoyance’ and that their ‘reputation has been seriously damaged’ by articles. Do you agree?
PK: I think their reputation has been damaged by the fact they’ve been at the helm at the professional cycling, between the two of them, for more than 20 years. If it was any other profession, if you were to apply their incompetence, they would’ve been sacked years ago. … You can argue whether I’ve done the damage or if they have done it to themselves, they’re more than capable of doing that to themselves, and I’ve shown that over the years. In their governance of the sport, they’ve been absolutely pathetic.
CT: Would it be easier just to apologise?
PK: I could never apologise to either of those gentlemen, that would be a betrayal of everything I stood for in the last 20 years. The notion that I would apologise in the first place is laughable, the notion that can do so now, given how many people have stood up for me and have put their hands in their pockets for me, make it even more improbable.
CT: How have you prepared for the case?
PK: It’s only now that I’m able to get some legal competence on my side and that I can actually sit down and defend this properly. I’ve spent the last two days looking at that and trying to get the right guys onboard. I hope to try to finalise it now, for them to explain to me how the process works and to take it from there.
CT: What do you make of all the support you’ve received?
PK: I’m absolutely astonished. It’s the most gratifying that has ever happened to me in my career as a journalist. It’s really nice when people tell you they read your pieces and give their support, but when people put their hands in their pocket for you and take out money and say, ‘This is for you. Go and defend that case.’ That takes that support to a completely new level.
CT: Are people are standing up to the UCI by supporting your fund?
PK: Essentially, it’s not about me. Outside of my immediate circle of friends, I believe everybody else, that’s what it’s about. It’s about [the UCI’s] incompetence.
CT: Will it be enough money?
PK: I’ll be governed by what the lawyers say. I know what I want to do, the defence I want to make and that would involve some pretty good witnesses. … My intention would be to fill a Boeing 747 full of people. I know that won’t actually be enough, in terms of people who’ve been disenfranchised and have witnessed how badly the sport’s been run first hand. I know a Boeing 747 won’t be enough, but I hope maybe to get two or three.
CT: Would you consider Tyler Hamilton?
PK: That would be the obvious place to start.
CT: The UCI brought in the biological passport and acts against dopers. Is it a good or bad force in cycling?
PK: The fact that we’re going to be sitting across from each other in a court room in a couple of months time is indicative of how I feel about what sort of job they’ve done, which again, I think it’s an utter disgrace for the last 20 years.
CT: They introduced the biological passport…
PK: There’s nothing wrong with that, that’s great, that’s fantastic. The biological passport and all the other controls are absolutely fantastic, but they are utterly fucking worthless when it’s selective. In terms of, ‘Oh, we are not going to chase him, we are going to chase him.’ Or, ‘We can’t run with that positive test but we can definitely run with those positives.’ When you are in a situation like that or you have stuff like that happening, all the other stuff is worthless.
CT: Are the tests better in a third party’s hands, like WADA?
CT: McQuaid said at the Worlds, “A certain number of you [journalists] are so focused on doping that you don’t see what else is going around, and cycling does suffer from that perception.” Are journalists writing too much about doping?
PK: I would ask Pat to go and do a random poll of sports fans, ask them what their presentation of cycling is and what their perception of the Tour de France is and see what the result of that poll would be. … I think you know the answer of that already.
CT: How much change do you think you’ve brought to the sport?
PK: I believed when Rough Ride was published in 1990 that it was going to change everything. I believe that book was going to absolutely transform the doping problem in the sport, and here we are 22 years later and the reality is that it changed absolutely nothing. As much as I’d like to tell you I had a fantastic influence on the sport and I’ve been change for the good of the sport, the truth is it’s nothing.
CT: Can the UCI do more?
PK: They could’ve started 22 years ago by reading what I wrote back then, by implementing the changes I suggested. That would’ve been a start. I’m not sure whether Hein Verbruggen can’t read or just doesn’t read. Clearly, he didn’t read Rough Ride. … I suggest that was where the start of the battle was lost, back in 1990.
CT: Does the UCI need to make changes in-house?
PK: I don’t think it is possible to work within that system. I don’t know how you could set up an independent system that would be different from the one that is there now. I would hope that there are some people within in there that could start the change. I do know what needs to happen, Mr Verbruggen and Mr McQuaid need to go straight away. That’s the start of it.
CT: What motivates you to keep at the doping side of the sport?
PK: I’m insane. Maybe I am. I don’t know. I do and have asked a lot lately, certainly a lot during the summer. What difference does it make? No difference, maybe. Don’t get me wrong, in this last week I’ve had my reward. What I found out is that I actually have made a difference in terms of energising people and educating people in this world, creating awareness about the real problem being there. In terms of addressing the actual problem itself, no, I haven’t, but in terms of the general public and trying to give them a sense of what’s wrong, I know now that I have made a difference. That is extremely gratifying.
CT: Have many journalists too complacent in the past?
PK: Do I think they’re too complacent? I think there are a lot of reasons why this sport is in this position, at the top of that list is the way it’s been governed. But the role that the media has played is at the top of that list as well. The degree to which we are complicit in the problem, as well, I would never ignore that. That has definitely been a huge part of the problem. I’m talking back to the 80s and 90s.
CT: Are the journalists not writing all they know?
PK: Yes. When they are not asking questions and not holding Verbruggen and now McQuaid account for what’s happening in the sport, with doping in the sport and generally. They just carry on and do what they want basically.
CT: Looking back, would you have done anything differently in your career as a journalist?
PK: I thank the lord that the first thing I did when I retired was that I wrote that book. I absolutely thank god that I did that, anything good anything decent I archived as a journalist stems from the moment I decided to do that. It was difficult because I was quite popular in the sport and I left the sport on my terms, looking to go into a good job, it was a difficult call at the time, but I thank god I did that. I wouldn’t change it.
UPDATE (Sept. 2, 2012): The UCI issued a statement today in which it sought to clarify its position regarding its current legal actions against Paul Kimmage:
UCI STATEMENT ON CASE AGAINST PAUL KIMMAGE
In response to questions concerning why almost one year ago the UCI initiated a court case against Paul Kimmage, the UCI wishes to issue the following clarification.
Mr Kimmage had made false accusations that defamed the UCI and its Presidents, and which tarnished their integrity and reputation.
Mr Kimmage is free to express and make public his opinions within the limits of the law and of the truth.
False accusations are unacceptable and unlawful and the UCI will defend itself against all such accusations as any other citizen or entity has the right to do.
The case against Mr Kimmage is limited to false accusations and does not concern other opinions of Mr Kimmage. The case is based upon the protection of the personality rights. Under the applicable Swiss law such case is directed against the person who made the defamatory statements. In this case this person is Mr Kimmage.
UCI Communication Service