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Presidency row takes spotlight off 'good year'

British Cycling President Brian Cookson rides a Velib self-service public bicycle during a photo session after a news conference in Paris

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British Cycling President Brian Cookson rides a Velib self-service public bicycle during a photo session …

By Karolos Grohmann

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Cycling is on the road to recovery from the Lance Armstrong doping scandal but a good season for the sport has been overshadowed by a bitter presidency campaign, incumbent Pat McQuaid said on Monday.

McQuaid is locked in an ugly election wrangle with challenger Brian Cookson, with the pair exchanging accusations for months as they seek control of the International Cycling Union (UCI) at elections later this month.

"It has overshadowed it, yes," McQuaid, also a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), told Reuters at the IOC session in the Argentine capital. "Cycling has had a good year. It is unfortunate that it (campaign) has done that."

The Irishman, who is backed by Thailand and Morocco after losing the Irish as well as Swiss support for the election, said he was still confident of winning the vote in Florence.

Cookson has headed British Cycling since 1997 and is the only challenger.

"My campaign is going well and much of the information going out (from Cookson) is unfounded," said McQuaid, who has been at the helm since 2005.

Efforts to stop him from running, including failed attempts to see his candidature blocked by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, were "interfering with democracy," he added.

"It is up to the (UCI) congress to elect their president, to choose who they want to represent them."

Cookson has based his candidacy on restoring trust in the UCI, which was criticized heavily for not doing enough to catch drug cheat Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles last year.

McQuaid has already described Cookson's election manifesto as "half-baked, fundamentally flawed and financially impractical."

"I have full faith that the voting members will make a correct, educated decision," said McQuaid, running for his third mandate after being re-elected unopposed in 2009.

The sport is trying to recover from the doping scandal surrounding Armstrong, who admitted to years of systematic doping in January.

McQuaid, who hopes to get considerable support from Asia, where he has helped set up tours and races, is also banking on the help of fellow IOC members to influence votes from their countries.

"Some IOC members have offered me support within the countries they live in," he added.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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