A special fund to help Paul Kimmage, the award-winning SJA member, in his legal battle with UCI, the cycling world body, has raised nearly £18,000 just five days after being launched on his behalf.
Earlier this year, the sport’s governing body began legal proceedings against Kimmage – though notably not against the publishers of his work, the News International-owned Sunday Times, or the publishers of an interview in the French sports paper L’Equipe.
A former Tour de France rider, Kimmage “spat in the soup” more than 20 years ago with his acclaimed book, Rough Ride, which broke the omerta of professional cycling.
Kimmage’s body of journalism work since has included a dogged investigation of the career of Lance Armstrong. The UCI is pursuing Kimmage following an extensive interview with Floyd Landis, published in the Sunday Times in January 2011, much of which covers territory in the cyclist’s recent book which exposed more details of Armstrong’s methods and conduct. Kimmage was also very critical of the UCI in an interview with L’Équipe.
He received a subpoena from a Swiss court on behalf of the UCI last week. Once the subpoena became public knowledge, support for Kimmage sprung up. Two websites established the defence fund. Nearly 900 people had made donations by this afternoon.
“I had no say in it and I was really, really uncomfortable with the notion of people putting their hands in their pockets for me because there are a million better causes out there than this,” Kimmage, who left the Sunday Times at the end of 2011, told Cyclingnews.
“Having said that, it’s one thing for people to say they support you, but when they put their hands in their pockets and put money up for you, that takes it to a completely new level and I’ve been blown away and absolutely staggered and humbled by it. So I can’t thank those people enough.”
The action against Kimmage has been instigated by the cycling body’s president Pat McQuaid, who was a panellist at the SJA’s Olympic Question Time last year, and his UCI predecessor, Hein Verbruggen. They are each claiming €6,600 for damage to their reputations.
Kimmage has long been critical of the role of the UCI over Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France winner, who was given a lifetime ban last month by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, following his refusal to defend himself against allegations he had used banned performance-enhancing drugs.
The case against Kimmage is due to be heard at the Tribunal D’Arrondissement de L’Est Vaudois in Vevey on December 12.
As well as the damages they are both seeking, McQuaid and VerBruggen are also demanding that Kimmage does not repeat the statements made before about UCI and that he pays for advertisements in international media publicising the final judgement of the court.
A petition has been set-up on another website, road.cc, calling for McQuaid’s resignation as president of the UCI. The petition reads: “Cycling racing continues to be in a mess because of ongoing doping issues, poor accountability and allegations of interference by its top organizing body, the UCI. Its leadership has failed to adequately address these issues for decades.”
McQuaid is due to stand for re-election as UCI president in 2013.
“When sports bodies deliberately choose to take legal action against an individual journalist, rather than pursuing their publishers, it smacks of vindictiveness,” Steven Downes, the SJA secretary, said today.
“We expect all our members to seek to achieve the highest of journalistic standards, and the work of Paul Kimmage over the years has always been acclaimed. His dogged pursuit of key issues in his sport has done cycling a massive service. It has also been sports journalism at its best.
“The response from the American websites and the public reflects that. On my own behalf, I’ll be sticking a few quid in to the fund,” Downes said, “and other members of the SJA might want to consider doing the same.”
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