UCI president Pat McQuaid has hit back at his critics, insisting that doping has become less widespread in cycling since he took charge in 2006 and holding out the hope that the governing body may yet overcome its differences with the World Anti-Doping Agency. He also made it clear that he has no intention of stepping down.
Speaking ahead of the UCI Track World Championships which start today in Minsk, Belarus, McQuaid, quoted on ESPN.co.uk, said: "I work 365 days a year for this sport, travel the world promoting the sport, have done so for a good few years.
"I feel I've achieved a lot in the seven-and-a-half years I've been president, in terms of developing the sport on a global basis and also in the fight against doping. I would like to do more. What I set out to do was change the culture, from a doping culture to an anti-doping culture. I do believe that is happening and I would like to see it through.
"When I do quit as president I'd like to look back to say I've achieved something with the sport.”
Referring to the fallout from the Lance Armstrong scandal, McQuaid said: "It has been difficult the last couple of months, but it's difficult dealing with something which happened 15 years ago. It's a long time ago. The landscape was different then to what it is today. We have to get through it and look forward. That's what the UCI is doing."
The reference to “15 years ago” – 1998 – is a curious one. That was the year Armstrong returned to cycling after fighting cancer, and the year before he won the first of the seven Tour de France titles he has since been stripped of, together with all other results in cycling up to his eventual retirement in 2011.
It’s also eight years before the Operacion Puerto scandal broke, and the years since then have seen a number of other high-profile doping cases resulting in bans for riders including Alberto Contador, who tested positive for clenbuterol in the 2010 Tour de France. Meanwhile, the Padua investigation in Italy is likely to result in a further wave of doping allegations.
In recent weeks, there has been a war of words between the UCI and WADA, mainly centred on the issue of setting up a truth and reconciliation process to allow those with past involvement in doping to come forward and reveal what they know, thereby allowing the sport to move on.
WADA insists that such a process should be managed by the Independent Commission that the UCI set up to examine its own role in the Armstrong affair but disbanded at the end of last month.
Despite the angry words that have been exchanged in the media between McQuaid and WADA president John Fahey, the UCI president remains hopeful that the two organisations’ differences can be overcome.
"I have always said relations with WADA, at an operational level, have always been excellent. They continue to be excellent," he maintained.
"Political level it's different, but hopefully we'll be able to work something out now on truth and reconciliation. It's something which would suit the sport and will allow us to draw a line in the sand."
McQuaid also said that the ongoing Operacion Puerto trial demonstrated clearly that doping was not an issue confined to cycling, with other sports finding themselves increasingly under the spotlight.
"My responsibility is my sport and what we do in our sport," he stated. "
The UCI has always stated that doping isn't a cycling-only related issue. It's a sports-related issue.
"We've always done the maximum in the fight against doping. We'd maintain that and can stand by that. The fact that other sports are now coming under scrutiny is really for the other sports to deal with.
"As far as I'm concerned I'm concentrating on cycling and what more we can do to ensure that we protect clean athletes and have a sport which is credible going forward."
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.