LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Pat McQuaid, president of cycling's governing body UCI, has rejected claims that the sport is in crisis -- despite another Tour de France ruined by doping.
McQuaid said cycling was going through a period of difficulty and change.
The sport's most prestigious event sank to new depths on Wednesday when race leader Michael Rasmussen was dramatically sacked by his Rabobank team, forcing him out of the race.
Rasmussen's exit followed positive tests for pre-race favorite Alexander Vinokourov of Kazakhstan and Italy's Cristian Moreni.
"I don't accept that the sport is in crisis. I can see the sport is going through a difficult period but that is a period of change and I can see at the far end of that period the sport will come out of it a lot better and a lot stronger," McQuaid told BBC radio on Thursday.
World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) chief Dick Pound earlier told the BBC that cycling had failed to deal with doping a decade earlier and that "the chickens had come home to roost".
Lorenz Schlaefli, head of the Swiss Cycling Federation, even suggested cycling was powerless to stop a "mafia" like control of the sport and that it was time to start from scratch.
"It's a tough thing to say, but at the moment we have a situation in cycling where the federations are fighting against a mafia made up of those with financial interests in the sport," Schlaefli told Swissinfo.
"It's all down to a question of money and it doesn't just concern the riders -- it's the doctors, the physiotherapists, the mechanics, the managers...we have to change everything."
McQuaid, however, said cycling was cleaning up its act. "We have always had a very, very strong anti-doping stance, we have always been to the forefront in the fight against doping," he said.
"We were the first to introduce blood doping and we are one of only two international sports that does blood testing on the day of competition. The moment I was elected president two years ago I admitted there was a doping culture. We are in the process of changing that culture and it will change in time."
The events of the past few days and the controversy over 2006 Tour winner Floyd Landis have cast doubts over cycling's place in the Olympics.
Craig Reedie, the former British Olympic Association chairman and member of the IOC's Ethics Commission, told BBC radio: "I am sure cycling will keep its place. Whether road cycling does I think is the issue. "The UCI have an audit under way after the disaster last year with Landis and they are looking at the whole future of the tours.
"My guess is that the IOC would wait and see the results of that before they used the rather blunt instrument of expelling an event. The IOC is hugely committed to this fight against drugs. This is the major challenge facing sport so we are not going to walk away from this."
Italian IOC member Mario Pescante came out in support of the UCI after an unnamed IOC member was quoted in Italian media saying that cycling should be thrown out of the Olympics.
"The IOC has asked all the international federations to stick by the WADA rules and the UCI has done so," said Pescante. "To me its seems that the controls they put in place are working." E-mail to a friend
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