By Duncan Mackay

Pat McQuaid at press conferenceJanuary 2 - Pat McQuaid has defended his leadership of the International Cycling Union (UCI) and claimed that Paul Kimmage, his biggest critic, is guilty of a personal vendetta against him.

The Irishman has been under huge pressure since Lance Armstrong was banned for life last August by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) for taking banned performance-enhancing drugs and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.

It has led to calls for McQuaid to step down as head of the sport - which he has led since 2005 - with America's three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond offering to step in on an interim basis.

"I've done nothing to warrant resigning," McQuaid said in an interview published in The Irish Examiner.

"All I've done since I became President [of the UCI] is fight doping as best I could.

"All I've done is fight doping, promote the sport, working 365 days of the year for the sport."

Kimmage, who is also Irish and has been at the forefront of publicising the fight against doping in cycling, is among those accused by McQuaid of fuelling the fire.

"It's a personal vendetta he's got against me and the only way he can pull me down is to associate me very closely with my predecessor Hein Verbruggen, doping and Lance Armstrong," said McQuaid.

"That's the only way he can see to bring me down.

"This year hasn't been easy for me.

"It's been difficult and I've put up with a huge amount of criticism, most of which is unjustified but that's the way the media operate."

McQuaid claims that, far from turning a blind eye to the problem of doping in the sport, he is a hardliner on the issue and that his views were shaped by the death of Johannes Draaijer more than 20 years ago.

Johannes Draaijer being interviewedThe death of young Dutch rider Johannes Draaijer in 1990 because of EPO had a profound affect on Pat McQuaid, he claims

He was a young Dutch rider who won the opening stage of the 1986 Nissan Classic in Ireland, an event that McQuaid organised.

But Draaijer died four years later at the age of 27, reportedly due to Erythropoietin (EPO).

"That had a huge effect on me - the fact that drugs will do that," McQuaid told The Irish Examiner.

"That, plus the [lack of] fairness of it and all that has conditioned my attitude towards doping and my attitude is as strong, if not stronger than a lot of these critics telling the UCI how it should be done.

"And when I became President in 2005, I laid out two objectives; the fight against doping and the globalisation of the sport."

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