In a week dominated by news that Alberto Contador has been cleared of doping charges, it has emerged that the UCI, together with past president Hein Verbruggen and current incumbent Pat McQuaid, plans to sue Floyd Landis, still the only man to have been stripped of the Tour de France title for doping.
A letter from Rolf Ditesheim of Reymond & Associés, dated 7 February 2010 obtained by NY Velocity and reproduced on its website tells the cyclist:
“I inform you that I have been appointed by the International Cycling Union (UCI), as well as by its current and former leaders, including Mr Pat McQuaid and Mr Hein Verbruggen, after statements you made about them that are detrimental to their honour, in particular during an interview broadcast on the 28th November 2010 by the German television channel ARD and picked up by various media.
“For the record, you basically indicate that the UCI and its current and former leaders may protect certain cyclists suspected of doping and not others, may falsify results and create stars, and that they may be corrupt. These accusations, which are as serious as they are false, are unacceptable.
“My principals have instructed me to use all legal processes necessary to defend their honour. The first measure to be undertaken is the opening of legal action of Switzerland.
“Before the opening of proceedings, my principals wish to give you the opportunity to retract your allegations. If you are interested by this proposition, I would ask you to inform me within 15 days. This time limit cannot be extended.”
Landis admitted to his own drug-taking in May last year and at the same time claimed that Lance Armstrong and other members of the former US Postal Service team had been involved in organised doping, with those allegations now at the centre of an investigation by special agent Jeff Novtzky of the Food & Drug Administration.
The former cyclist, who had reiterated those allegations in the interview with ARD, and accused the UCI of instigating a cover-up to protect Armstrong, wasted no time in responding to the law firm.
Landis yesterday copied the website Cycling News in on an email in which he asked Ditesheim “to please try and reconcile” an article that had appeared on Cycling News last Friday headed ‘Carpani says UCI pleased with Spanish Federation’s handling of Contador case’ “with your threat of litigation in light of todays [sic] exoneration of Aberto Contador.”
Presumably, the inference drawn by Landis is that Contador has benefited from preferential treatment, although were the UCI not to appeal his case to the Court of Arbitration for sport, that would perhaps be even more surprising than the Spanish national federation’s decision to exonerate the cyclist in the first place following his positive test for clenbuterol in last year’s Tour de France.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.