By Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) - Australian clothing brand SKINS has filed a law suit against the International Cycling Union (UCI) seeking $2 million in damages and alleging that the sport's governing body lacked leadership in the fight against doping.
"The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has been served with a demand for $2 million by leading sports compression wear company SKINS, seeking damages caused by alleged mismanagement and the Lance Armstrong doping scandal," SKINS said in a press release.
"SKINS, which has been a commercial supporter of world cycling for the last 5 years, has also cited UCI President Pat McQuaid and Honorary President for Life, Hein Verbruggen for their handling of a crisis which SKINS alleges is the main cause for the significant loss of confidence in professional cycling by the public and harms the company's international reputation as a consequence."
McQuaid was not immediately available to comment.
The UCI has come under heavy criticism for their handling of anti-doping in the wake of the Lance Armstrong scandal.
Armstrong was banned for life and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) published a report claiming the Texan had used performance-enhancing drugs and organized doping to build his success.
"As a supplier and sponsor, SKINS has been concerned that cycling's tarnished image which is the result of years of cheating and doping, that manifested itself in the Lance Armstrong case, is damaging to a brand that is associated with a series of commercial cycling partners across the world including USA Cycling, Cycling Australia, Bike NZ, Rabobank Cycling, Team Europcar, Team Lotto Belisol and Team NetApp," SKINS added.
"Amongst others, SKINS was the provider of high tech race suits to the USA Olympic Cycling team for the London Olympics."
The USADA report contained statements from former riders Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis alleging the UCI had covered up an Armstrong positive test from the 2001 Tour of Switzerland.
The UCI and the laboratory that handled the test have denied any cover up, saying Armstrong had not failed a dope test in 2001 although a sample came back as "suspicious".
The UCI have also put on hold a law suit for defamation against journalist Paul Kimmage only for the Irishman to counter-sue the sport's governing body.
Kimmage's lawyer Cedric Aguet released a statement on Thursday saying his client "...has sent today to the Public Prosecutor of Vevey (in Switzerland) a criminal complaint and denunciation against Hein Vebruggen, Pat McQuaid and unknown persons against whom Paul Kimmage requests the opening of a criminal investigation for slander/defamation, denigration and for strong suspicions of fraud".
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris)