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British rider says governing body shirks responsibility for doping issues, fans raise fighting fund for Irish journalist being sued for defamation

Garmin-Sharp rider David Millar has accused UCI president Pat McQuaid and the governing body of shirking responsibility for cycling’s doping culture rather than trying to learn from the lessons of the past. Meanwhile, a legal defence fund has been set up for journalist Paul Kimmage, who is being sued for defamation by the UCI, McQuaid and his predecessor, Hein Verbruggen, and an online petition has also been set up calling on the UCI president to resign.

Millar, who served a two year ban for doping between 2004 and 2006 and has since become an advocate against doping, including sitting on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s athletes’ panel, was working as an expert commentator for the BBC during last weeks UCI Road World Championships where he quizzed McQuaid on the subject of doping during a press conference, reports Inside The Games.

"Don't you think you're sending a wrong message when you said the UCI has nothing to be apologetic for?" he asked the UCI President.

"No,” replied McQuaid. "How could we be apologetic? The UCI is not responsible for the culture of doping.

"We do more testing than anyone else. If we got information at any point in time, we would act on that information.

Referring to Millar’s own past, he said: "You did what you did, and you didn't rush to inform that to the UCI.

"Others doped and then spent small fortunes to tell the UCI and the world they didn't dope, only to later say they did.

"The UCI is not to blame for the culture of doping in the sport."

However, in his autobiography Racing Through the Dark, Millar reveals how after returning from his ban, he contacted the UCI about his suspicions over doping at his then team, Saunier Duval, including writing to McQuaid personally, but he never received a reply.

Speaking after his exchange with McQuaid in the Netherlands last week, Millar said: “The UCI don't seem to accept any responsibility for the last 15 years," said Millar after his showdown with McQuaid.

"We need them to show leadership and acceptance for us to move forward.

"If it is apparent there was a black period, I think it's time for the UCI to say, 'Maybe we didn't do everything we could have done, and we're sorry for that.'

"Now they're just saying, 'Oh, we did everything we could, we have no regrets.'

"It was an era in the sport when doping was prevalent.

“It's something we all have to admit to now.

"It's not that we can just pretend it didn't happen.

"We're seeing now there are repercussions and that's a good thing."

Those repercussions, of course, include the recent lifetime ban handed out to Lance Armstrong by the US Anti Doping Agency, with the Texan also stripped of results including the seven Tour de France titles he won between 1999 and 2005.

While USADA’s full reasons for the sanction imposed on Armstrong have not yeat been made public, part of its case involves an alleged positive test for EPO during the 2001 Tour de Suisse that is claimed to have been covered up by the UCI.

That allegation was previously aired against the governing body by the Irish former professional cyclist turned journalist, Paul Kimmage, and last week a subpoena was served on him on behalf of the UCI, McQuaid and Verbruggen alleging that their reputations had been damaged by articles Kimmage wrote for The Sunday Times and other publications.

Kimmage was made redundant by the Sunday Times earlier this year, and the website NY Velocity has publicised a fighting fund to help him meet the costs of his defence in the lawsuit, which has been filed in Switzerland.

Donations currently stand at more than $17,000, with NY Velocity saying: “The UCI are taking Paul Kimmage to court for writing that they covered up a positive for Lance Armstrong.

"The same accusation is leveled by [Tyler] Hamilton and [Daniel] Coyle in The Secret Race, and will likely be further corroborated when USADA present their case against Armstrong.

"As [journalist and author] David Walsh has pointed out, the UCI are vindictively suing only Kimmage and not the publications in which those accusations appeared (that includes us!). Some friends have set up a Chipin for Kimmage's defense fund below."

Kimmage himself, previously absent from Twitter, set up an account on the social network specifically to thank those who supported him.

“Twitter is not for the impulsive so these are a first and the last,” was his first tweet, quickly followed by five others.

“To those who have supported me - a sincere thanks. I am truly humbled.

“To sports fans: There is nothing wrong with cycling that some truth and honesty can't.

“To Pat McQuaid: An admission, I actually admired you once.

“To Hein Verbruggen, a question: Does this ring a bell?

“'J'ai les moyens de vous faire un coureur positif quand je veux...' [I have the means of making you a rider who tests positive whenever I want - ed.]

That looked like being Kimmage’s final tweet, but he was subsequently persuaded by Walsh to carry on tweeting, explaining: “@DavidWalshST a mentor and best friend since 1982 informs me I have a duty to those who have supported me to keep tweeting.”

Meanwhile, as highlighted recently on the road.cc forum, an online petition has been set up to request McQuaid to resign as UCI president. As many of the comments to that post make clear, that’s perhaps wishful thinking, and to date the petition has garnered fewer than 500 signatures.

As in-the-know blogger Innr Ring pointed out in a blog post last year, McQuaid, who succeeded Verbruggen in 2005, is next up for re-election in 2013 and certainly at that time his view was that the voting process made it “near impossible” to dislodge the UCI president.

Whether that still holds true as the Armstrong saga continues to play itself out remains to be seen.

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.