Australian clothing firm SKINS threatened on Sunday to sue world cycling governing body UCI for US$2 million, alleging the organization harmed the company’s image by failing to crack down on doping and run a clean sport.
The company’s Swiss lawyers wrote to UCI on Friday saying SKINS had been involved in professional cycling from 2008 in the belief that the sport had cleaned up its act after the scandal-tainted 1998 Tour de France.
However, in a statement issued through its lawyers, SKINS said it had concluded that it must revise that view.
“As a supplier and a sponsor, SKINS is particularly concerned by its brand image, and since it strongly believes in the true spirit of competition, it is firmly against doping,” the statement read.
SKINS said it had invested in the sport “under the illusion that professional cycling had been fundamentally reformed to contain doping and to minimize the risks of scandals with which the brand of any sponsor could be associated.”
However, in the wake of the Lance Armstrong scandal, which saw the Texan stripped of his seven Tour de France titles after a US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) investigation into alleged systematic doping, SKINS said it had to act accordingly.
“It has now been proven that these legitimate expectations [of cycling being clean] have been betrayed on the grounds you are aware of,” SKINS said.
The firm indicated that the manner in which the UCI had dealt with the Armstrong case and the fight against doping in general “is the main cause for the total loss of confidence in professional cycling by the public.”
That loss of confidence and credibility for cycling “harms SKINS, as well as any other sponsor or supplier,” it said.
“The Lance Armstrong affair has damaged world cycling to the point where its reputation is possibly irreparable,” SKINS chairman Jaimie Fuller said. “As a commercial partner, there are clearly implications to our brand image [and] our reputation and credibility has potentially been significantly damaged.”
Fuller laid the blame at the UCI’s door.
“We believe that until it was forced into action by USADA’s comprehensive report, the UCI fundamentally failed to acknowledge the issues or act to save the credibility of cycling or its commercial partners,” he said.
SKINS said it therefore believed it was justified in seeking damages of US$2 million through the courts, while holding out the possibility of an out-of-court settlement.