Friday, November 2, 2012

to fight or to back down?

Just over a week ago Paul Kimmage was interviewed on Off The Ball radio show after the UCI held there management committee meeting and subsequent press conference in which they officially stripped Lance Armstrong of his seven Tour De France titles, (this was before Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen had decide to suspend their legal action against him,) he was asked was he hoping that they would have took the decision to drop the lawsuit against him and he said he wished they did. Kimmage sounded like a guy who was under immense stress, you could hear it in his voice it was as if he was a spring coiled to the maxium waiting to explode.

Kimmage stated that the case has taken over his life with the last two months he described the case as an absolute "pain" to him. It must have being a great sense of relief to him when McQuaid and Verbruggen announced a few days later that they were going to suspend their legal action against him. But in the earlier interview he also stated that he felt he had a responsibility to those riders who carrer's had being affected by doping and people such as Emma O'Reilly and Betsy Andreu who had the guts to testify against Armstrong, he stated that he would use everything within his means to fight the case and would charter a jumbo jet to get people to Switzerland.

People may have considered this just fighting talk and that surely when the dust had settled he would retreat to a corner and write a piece about it for the Sunday Independent and that would be the end of the matter, surely that is what McQuaid and Verbrugge were hoping would happen. But this is not Kimmages style he seems to be stubborn at the best of times and was not to let the matter go, he must have took great strength from the support fund set up by Bloggers Andy Shen of and Lesli Cohen of which is now standing at more than $85,000 and has being contributed to by almost 2,900 people. He decided to fight back in the way he was attacked by going after McQuaid and Verbrugge in the Swiss courts. His lawsuit is a criminal complaint based on for slander/defamation and for strong suspicions of fraud. Hi lawsuit comprises a 28-page document with 55 exhibits of evidence that will be presented to a Swiss judge who will in turn decide if Verbruggen and McQuaid have a case to answer.

The 55 exhibits of evidence will prove to be very interesting if the case comes to court surely it will involve people such as Greg Lemond who seems very keen for McQuaid and Verbruggen to go. Surely the majority of the evidence will be information that is already in the public domain through the USADA reasoned decision on the Armstrong case. If Verbruggen and McQuaid are found guilty I don't know if that will automatically force there resignation from the UCI but I am sure that Kimmage is hoping that if they are found guilty public opinion and the UCI management committee will force their removal.
This court case if it happens will at the same time be a disaster and a positive thing for cycling. A disaster in that cycling will be dragged through the mud again and the headlines will be dominated by bad news as opposed to the good of cycling. But it will be good in that cycling needs this, it needs to be purged and cleansed of the past. I don't know if McQuaid is guilt as outlined by Kimmage but in his shoes would any of us have being able to stand up to the influence of Armstrong? This is a man who forced grown men to take drugs to ultimately benefit him. Its undeniable that for a time Armstrong was good for cycling and good for all the people around the world fighting cancer, would any of us have being able to stand up to Armstrong and all he represented?

The rules were bent for Armstrong for a time he was bigger than the sport he was simply too big to fail. Those such as Kimmage and David Walsh were pushed to the sidelines. The UCI needs to recognise the mistakes of the past, Verbruggen needs to go, perhaps McQuaid as well. McQuaid could take this opportunity to change the sport for ever, the sport is now truly at a cross roads. Drug testing needs to be administered by an independent body such as WADA national federations and the UCI should have nothing to do with drug testing and implementation. Bans for testing positive need to be increased, if someone tests positive for EPO ban them for 4 years, no one takes EPO by mistake. If someone tests positive for a tainted food supplement for example ban them for 2 years as they are still responsible for what enters their body but they still should be entitled to a second chance. A four year ban should end a career and this is the message that needs to be sent to all those riders considering heading to the "dark side". When someone tests positive they should be banned straight away we should not see the stupid situation where someone races for up to a year when awaiting an appeal and then when finally found guilty are only banned for 6 months in effect, they still have the racing days in their legs and the wages and prize money in their bank accounts.

Change needs to happen or we might as well go back to 1998 again, that is why we should applaud Paul Kimmage for having the strength to continue his fight, he could have taken the easy option (many would not have blamed him) but he wont back down. The sport needs more like him, hopefully because of his actions and others like him in 5 years time we can have a sport we truly believe in.

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