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Paul Kimmage in 2006 – “Stop treating people like me as pariahs”

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Paul Kimmage
Paul also writes about other sports, and his book “Engage” won last year’s William Hill Irish Sports Book of the Year.

Paul Kimmage has been a near-lone voice in the wilderness for a long time, questioning the ethics in cycling and railing against the alleged corruption amongst the riders and the people charged with running the sport for over 20 years.

And yet he is the person whom the UCI, their President Pat McQuaid and ex-President Hein Verbruggen are suing in the Swiss Courts in a couple of months time, for saying out loud what we’ve all been thinking, and for writing articles in the Sunday Independent and later for the Sunday Times, as well as on sites such as NYVeloCity.com, where he published the entire transcript of his interview with FLoyd Landis early in 2011.

Kimmage has consistently accused McQuaid and Verbruggen of “having knowingly tolerated tests, of being dishonest people, of not having a sense of responsibility, of not applying the same rules to everyone.”, and the theory goes that the UCI are suing him (and not the papers his words appeared in) because he is a relatively easy target (being unemployed since earlier in the year) in order to send a message to the rest of their critics that speaking out publicly against them may prove to be more costly in terms of money and time than it’s worth.

But their plan appears to be back-firing mightily.

Five days ago a fund was setup for Kimmage by the guys at NYVeloCity.com and  Cyclismas.com where anyone can offer their support by donating some money – and it’s currently running at over $33,000.

The initial idea of the fund was to provide Kimmage with help towards his legal expenses but what’s actually happened is that it’s become a focus for change, for fans of cycling who want to help get the sport back onto an even keel again, and many see getting rid of the (for now allegedly) corrupt old-schoolers as an essential step.

The fund still has two months to run (it closes on December 1st) and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Kimmage could have enough money behind him to bring a counter-suit.

Either way, the court case and the necessary funds will surely give Kimmage an opportunity to substantiate his claims with enough witness testimony to satisfy Swiss law.  As InnerRing puts it:

“Here’s the concise definition of defamation under the Swiss Criminal Code:

” ‘Any person who in addressing a third party, makes an accusation against or casts suspicion on another of dishonourable conduct or of other conduct that is liable to damage another’s reputation.’

“We could joke that Verbruggen and McQuaid’s reputation is so low that Kimmage didn’t do any additional harm but that’s subjective. Let’s stick to the law as the Code goes on to explain something that seems crucial for Kimmage’s defence:

” ‘If the accused proves… … he had substantial grounds to hold an honest belief that it was true, he may not be held guilty of an offence.’ “

Pat McQuaid may well come to regret some of his decisions.

Judging by the content of Tyler Hamilton’s book “The Secret Race” and the fact that USADA Director Travis Tygart stated the other day in an interview with Cyclingnews.com that USADA have compiled a body of evidence in the ‘USPS Conspiracy’ case 30 times more damning than what’s been seen in the public domain already, it’s reasonable to assume that Kimmage has the potential to make McQuaid and Verbruggen deeply regret bringing him to an open court.

Referring to another suit that the UCI (or it’s leadership) had brought against Floyd Landis last year, McQuaid told Cyclingnews Editor Daniel Benson;

“I will not accept anyone saying that I or the UCI is corrupt. If you say that about the UCI, that’s 90 people affected. I will not accept that the UCI is corrupt or has ever been corrupt. I just will not accept that. If someone wants to say that, they need to stand up and show the proof.”

This may just be the time for Paul Kimmage to be that someone, to provide a Swiss Court, lovers and followers of cycling, and the watching world at large, that proof.

In light of this, we thought it would be interesting to revisit a couple of interviews with Kimmage, to see if his position and message have changed any in the interim.

The first interview, reprised below, dates back five years and in it Kimmage talks about what he thought as he watched Floyd Landis take a hammering in the Tour then go on to take the Maillot Jaune, and ultimately become yet another huge disappointment when he tested positive and was stripped of the win.

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First published August 2006

One of the most famous names in the anti-dope crusade is ex-pro Paul Kimmage, who’s 1990 book ‘Rough Ride’, a ground-breaking book detailing his years as a domestique in the professional ranks from 1986 to 1989 was one of the first to blatantly expose doping in pro cycling.

Now a successful journalist with the Sunday Times of London, VeloVeritas was curious to hear his thoughts about the Landis affair.

Paul’s book was the candid story of a young Irishman’s journey from raw, green amateur to disillusioned, cynical ex-pro.

Paul Kimmage
Rather than the usual ‘Boys Own’ comic stuff it dipped into the murky world of damaged individuals and proscribed substances.

In those pre-ProTour days, ‘omerta’ ruled; the Sicilian code of silence – the author had ‘spat in the soup’ with his revelations about his own drug-taking that was instrumental in his quitting the sport.

Paul Kimmage has remained a thorn in the side of those who would rather we didn’t talk about drugs; he’s the guy who pops-up with the awkward question at exactly the wrong moment.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us Paul. As a pro you were well on the ladder to better things, any regrets about not going as far as you could have?

“None, I’m very happy with how my career has gone since I quit as a pro.

“I have no bitterness and I regard it as an enriching part of the school of life.

“Maybe if I hadn’t had a successful career as a journalist I would feel different.”

Paul Kimmage
Paul relaxes in the Village Depart in happier times.

What were your thoughts when the Operacion Puerto storm broke just before the Tour started?

“I was thrilled.

“I watched the Giro and was appalled at what I saw, riders going up huge climbs like robots, with ease.

“Look at old videos of Greg Lemond and Laurent Fignon in the Tour; you won’t see them climbing like that.

“It’s not recognisable as the same sport I participated in.”

Do you think that the success of the French riders in the Tour was due to a more level playing field with the Puerto exclusions and fears scandal?

“There’s no doubt about that.

“Initially I was very hopeful about this Tour, especially when I saw Landis crack on stage 16. I thought – well, he’s human, he’s taken a bloody good hiding, there’s good days and bad days and that was a bad one.

“It helped rekindle my enthusiasm for the Tour. However the non-performance of some favourites – we all know who they are – speaks for itself.

“The French teams have had a hard time of it with journalists writing about the riders being lazy – not doing the training or not looking after themselves.”

[editor. Note – it is generally acknowledged that the French Government’s ‘linear health checks’ on professional riders are very stringent]

Paul Kimmage
Landis and Pereiro share at joke at the Tour, perhaps about those pesky needle bruises.

What’s your take on Landis’s initial line of defence?

“How many times have we heard it all before; how do they say it with a straight face?

“I saw his first tele-cast to a couple of American journalists, he was shaken and subdued.

“The next day he’s in Madrid with his high-powered lawyers telling us the way he’s being treated is outrageous.

“When he took the jersey for the first time, I wrote in the Sunday Times that I hoped his performance was for real and that he wouldn’t betray me, but that’s exactly what he did.

“I got out of the sport at the right time, the decade from 1990 until the EPO tests came along was one which saw substance-abuse practiced on a massive scale.

“Many of the individuals who were involved in that are still involved in the sport as team and race officials.

“There has to be a clear-out, root and branch.

“If a rider is found guilty of doping they should ban him for life and not let him back in to the sport.

“There are people out there who purport to love the sport but whose background and attitude to the problem – refusing to condemn drugs – means the problem won’t go away until we get rid of them.

“It’s ingrained in these people and they are running teams.”

What about Landis’s claim that his samples were spiked?

“You might not believe this, but I knew he was doping before the test results were even released.

“It’s the answers these guys give – they refuse to condemn drug use; Landis refused to criticize Ulrich and Basso, his answers were indirect and evasive, even when pushed.

“I like how Bradley Wiggins speaks-out against drug-taking.

“As for samples being spiked, it’s laughable – nobody believes that anymore.”

During the Tour you had some harsh words for your fellow-journalists on the subject of doping – what do you want us to do Paul?

“Don’t give them an easy ride – ask that awkward question, go down the rocky road, ask for clarification.

“I was at a certain rider’s press conference and it was just after his advisor Michele Ferrari had been banned from the sport for his involvement in doping.

“I asked how the loss of his mentor would affect his preparation; not one of literally hundreds of journalists present asked a follow-up question, the next question was about what he would do after he retired, or some-such.

“Many journalists are frightened to ask the searching questions.

“When the Cofidis affair was breaking I asked to talk to David Millar; he said he wouldn’t because he didn’t respect my work.

“I wrote that he was deeply implicated in the drugs scandal that Gaumont had gone public on, his lawyers threatened me with legal-action; shortly after that he was arrested and eventually banned for two years.

“It seems incredible to me that Millar has now announced he’s working with Luigi Cecchini; he’s telling us he’s learned his lesson and now he’s working with a man who’s has been investigated by magistrates over doping allegations.I f you want a ‘clean’ reputation you stay well clear of these people.

[Editor. Cecchini was Tyler Hamilton’s trainer at the time of the American’s infamous 2004 Vuelta positive A & B tests and positive A sample for the Olympic time trial. His name has also popped-up in the Operacion Puerto scandal.]

What do you think we have to do to have a clean sport in the future?

“There have to be tests and more tests, along the lines of the French model.

“There has to be the will at the top too; Prudhomme talks the talk, but will he walk the walk?

“I think it’s a very bad sign that he won’t release the blood samples to the Puerto investigators.

“No doubt there’s a list of legal reasons for his decision but you have to ignore that and take it on – go for it!

“The sport won’t be right until it stops treating people like me as pariahs and stops welcoming returning drugs cheats as heroes.”

Now read our interview with Paul from when we met at last year’s Tour de France.

Ed Hood and Martin Williamson
Ed and Martin, our top team! They try to do the local Time Trials, the Grand Tours and the Classics together to get the great stories written, the quality photos taken, the driving done and the wifi wrestled with.

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