UCI reiterates why it is suing journalist Paul Kimmage for defamation
Governing body outlines grounds for its suit... but will its legal action be overtaken by events in Armstrong and Bruyneel cases?
The UCI has this evening taken the unusual step of reiterating why it, together with former president Hein Verbruggen and the current holder of that post, Pat McQuaid, is suing former Sunday Times journalist and ex-professional cyclist Paul Kimmage for defamation.
Since a subpoena was served on Kimmage last month on behalf of the UCI and its past and present presidents, with a date of 12 December 2012 set for the defamation trial in a Swiss Court, there has been a huge groundswell of public backing for the former rider who went on to pen the book Rough Ride, widely seen as one of the most compelling insider's acounts of the sport ever published.
That has manifested itself most clearly by the establishment by the websites Cyclismas and NY Velocity of a defence fund to help Kimmage, made redundant by The Sunday Times earlier this year, meet his legal bills.
Initiated by the website Cyclismas, the fund is now heading towards $50,000, with Kimmage's supporters, many sharing his view - one of the central issues in the case - that the UCI colluded in covering up a positive test for EPO by Lance Armstrong.
The fact that it is Kimmage alone who is being sued, rather than others who have levelled similar accusations at the UCI and its senior personnel or the publications in which his allegations appeared, has also caused unease, as has the timing of the action.
While the UCI, Verbrugge and McQuaid first stated their intention to sue Kimmage last January, the formal subpoena has arrived in the wake of the United States Anti Doping Agency banning Lance Armstrong for life.
Moreover, Johan Bruyneel, also charged in connection with an alleged doping conspiracy at the US Postal Service team and elsewhere, has elected to have his case heard in an arbitration session next month.
USADA itself has said that it will file its reasoned decision in the Armstrong case with the UCI in a fortnight's time.
Should the lifetime ban it has handed to the Texan turn out to be in part based on the same alleged incidents that are the subject of the governing body's action against Kimmage, the question will arise of whether the UCI will seek to challenge USADA's decision in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, or even bring a separate defamation action against it.
According to a report in the Sunday Times this weekend, cited in the New York Daily News, USADA's evidence against Armstrong does indeed include signed affidavits from two former US Postal Service riders testifying that Armstrong told them he had failed a doping control during the 2001 Tour of Switzerland.
Another has reportedly testified that Armstrong told him that he was able to use his influence with the UCI get round ani-doping rules then in force.
In its statement released this evening, the UCI said:
"In response to questions concerning why almost one year ago the UCI initiated a court case against Paul Kimmage, the UCI wishes to issue the following clarification.
"Mr Kimmage had made false accusations that defamed the UCI and its Presidents, and which tarnished their integrity and reputation.
"Mr Kimmage is free to express and make public his opinions within the limits of the law and of the truth.
"False accusations are unacceptable and unlawful and the UCI will defend itself against all such accusations as any other citizen or entity has the right to do.
"The case against Mr Kimmage is limited to false accusations and does not concern other opinions of Mr Kimmage. The case is based upon the protection of the personality rights. Under the applicable Swiss law such case is directed against the person who made the defamatory statements. In this case this person is Mr Kimmage."
Kimmage, who joined Twitter last month initially just to thank his supporters but was persuaded to stick around on the social network, himself tweeted a link to the press release shortly after it was sent out, saying: "Just fed this to my pitbull lawyer in Switzerland..."