POSTED: September 28th 2012

NEIL WILSON: Putting a spoke in the anti-doping message

THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

September 28 - The International Fair Play Committee, which works in association with the IOC, was established following the death of a doped Danish cyclist at the 1960 Olympic Games. It makes awards which recognise those in sport who, by their work or deeds, promote fair play in sport.

Doping, naturally, is one of the categories it considers. So may I recommend that it issues one of its diploma to Irishman Paul Kimmage, a former professional  road race cyclist, sports journalist and author. It would be doubly appropriate because AIPS, the organisation which represents sports journalists, was primarily involved 50 years ago next year in the creation of the awards.

Recognition of Kimmage is warranted because he stood like that lone Chinese in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square against the iniquities of doping in his sport for a decade before he was joined by others of the Fourth Estate or the anti-doping movement. Or, perhaps a more fitting analogy, faced down the elephant in the room, the one subject in cycling nobody would discuss.

Recognition would also be timely. Kimmage is being sued by Hein Verbruggen, a honorary member of the IOC and former president of cycling’s world body UCI, and its current president Pat McQuaid in a Swiss court for defamation because of an interview with former doper Floyd Landis he published last year.

Word on the cycling forum and international sporting press is that Landis’s allegations will be substantiated when the US Anti-Doping Agency release to the UCI later this week full details of its evidence against Lance Armstrong. Hopefully, for Kimmage’s defence, the USADA will reveal them publicly, as it promises, before the case comes to court in December.

I say hopefully because Kimmage deserves all credit for the
stand he has made on an issue that has so soiled cycling. I do not know enough of cycling to know the full truth of what he says about UCI. It is enough to know that more than 80% of Tour de France winners since the Briton Tommy Simpson died in a doping-related incident in the Sixties have been implicated or tarnished by doping allegations and in all that time UCI has been the body in charge of the sport.

Mr McQuaid says that the UCI has nothing to apologise for but if it was not complicit it was certainly complaisant about a culture that continued from those Olympic Games in Rome until the present day. Otherwise it would not been possible for it to continue for so long. In less than a week more than a 1,000 people have contributed more than $36,000 to a legal fund in support of Kimmage.

Next year the UCI will ask the IOC for two more events to be added to the cycling programme in 2016. It should be asked first to accept the validity of Kimmage’s message and to stop trying to muzzle the messenger.

NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books.

Keywords · Neil Wilson · anti-doping · Paul Kimmage

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