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by Shane Stokes
July 9, 2015
Photography by Wildfire Films
Paul Kimmage has come out fighting on the day of the preliminary court hearing in the legal case taken against him by Hein Verbruggen, with the anti-doping journalist saying that he has won’t be pressured into backing down.
The long running legal case taken by former UCI President Verbruggen was heard Wednesday by a court in Vervey in Switzerland.
“The judge brought us in, sat us down. He suggested a reconciliation but Verbruggen’s terms aren’t acceptable to me,” Kimmage told CyclingTips after the hearing.
“He is demanding an apology and an assurance that I won’t write about him again. That wasn’t acceptable under any circumstances for me. That is where we are at now.”
Verbruggen and his successor Pat McQuaid both launched suits against Kimmage in the past, claiming defamation of their character in terms of his criticism of them and how they handled anti-doping in the UCI.
They were also unhappy with comments made by Floyd Landis in the course of an interview with Kimmage.
McQuaid since dropped out of his legal suit but Verbruggen pushed onwards with his portion of it. His lawyers had appeared to be stalling in advance of the publication of the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) report in March.
After it was released, he then pressed on with his case even though both he and McQuaid were heavily criticised in the report.
That criticism included the finding that both McQuaid and Verbruggen had been far too close in their dealings with Lance Armstrong and that the latter had been dismissive of clean riders who had tried to highlight the doping problem in the sport.
The report also found that Verbruggen and others had interfered with the commissioned Vrijman report examining claims that Armstrong had used EPO in the 1999 Tour.
CIRC concluded that Armstrong’s legal team was allowed to help write the conclusions, an astonishing development which made nonsense of the UCI’s claims at the time that the report was an entirely independent audit of the matter.
Kimmage believes that Verbruggen is trying to clear his name by chasing a victory in the Swiss courts. He said that a principle is at stake and that it is important to not back down.
“It is war, basically, that is the bottom line. It is going to go on now and it is going to be a long and bloody battle. That is the bottom line,” said Kimmage.
“I do want to win this, I really do want to win this. It is very important.
“It is not just me, that is the point I made today to the president of the jury. I said, ‘look, this guy has been abusing people who stood up against doping for years.’ And Verbruggen actually admitted it.
“The bottom line is that it is going to be a long and drawn-out battle. But I had no choice. I just couldn’t accept it, I wouldn’t accept it. It would be just a total betrayal. I am not going to have it.”
Although Kimmage’s French isn’t fluent, he addressed the judge in that language on Wednesday when explaining his stance. “I said that if this was really about justice, what Verbruggen should have done initially is to go to the newspapers [where the interviews were printed] and engage with then.
“But it was never about that, it was just about making an example of one person. It was about doing what he has done all his life, which is abusing whistleblowers.”
The next step in the case is the judge will consider the matter and also the list of witnesses Verbruggen has drawn up. “It is going to take forever to get statements from them, probably. But that is the bottom line,” said Kimmage.
A date hasn’t yet been set for the next hearing.
While Kimmage said he didn’t have a list to hand of the witnesses listed by Verbruggen and his legal team, he said that CIRC chairman Dr. Dick Marty has been summoned. “I think he is bringing him in…that would be great,” he said.
Verbruggen has been strongly critical of the CIRC report and has accused it of bias. Marty is a Swiss politician and former state prosecutor.
Kimmage pointed out to the judge that he was unemployed at the time the case was launched against him and hasn’t yet submitted a list of the witnesses he would like to appear.
“I really would like to do that now, as there are the likes of [former pro rider Gilles] Delion and all the other people that Verbruggen has abused over the years. They are the people that I would like standing with me in that courtroom.”
Kimmage said in a recent interview with CyclingTips that he hoped that Skins Chairman Jaimie Fuller would follow through on an earlier pledge to support him in the Verbruggen case. Kimmage was left exposed when a legal fund donated by those involved in cycling for his defence went missing.
It was seized by Aaron Brown, co-founder of the Cyclismas website, who now has a US court judgement against him as a result.
Fuller confirmed to Kimmage that he would honour that earlier pledge, and this week wrote a strongly worded blog about the case and called on Verbruggen to accept a public debate on the matter.
“It is just great having him stand beside me at times when I really needed it. That is the bottom line,” said Kimmage about Fuller.
“I understand and really appreciate the support of the cycling community, but I also need some financial backing and it is great to have Jaimie there for that. That is important as well.”