• Paolo Bettini (Getty) (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Italian cycling legend Paolo Bettini, in Adelaide as a guest of the Tour Down Under, has backed cycling's efforts to clean up its act.
Cycling Central

19 Jan 2016 - 8:33 AM  UPDATED 19 Jan 2016 - 9:02 AM

Only a couple of years ago, no-one in cycling would dare call it "the best sport".

But ongoing anti-doping reforms have Italian legend Paolo Bettini buoyant about the progress made since the Lance Armstrong scandal.

While cycling is a long way from clean, doping is more a storm cloud on the horizon rather than the full-blown crisis that wracked the sport in 2012.

The Essendon supplements saga and athletics' corruption scandal means the spotlight has shifted elsewhere.

And Bettini, who is in Adelaide as a guest of this week's Tour Down Under, says cycling has lifted its game.

"I think cycling in this moment is the best sport," he said on Monday.

"Its a very good sport, its impossible to say its totally clean, but the sport has worked hard to change the mentality - not only the riders, but the teams and all the components (have) a different mentality.

"Modern cycling had courage to change, but other sports have not the courage for change.

"Its impossible to say that the doping problem is finished - its important that the mentality has changed."

Bettini won two world road championships and the 2004 Olympics road race gold medal.

He was the best one-day classics rider of his generation and is also the former Italian road team coach.

Bettini famously fired an imaginary gun in protest as he crossed the line to win the 2007 world road title.

It was unclear only hours before the race whether he would start, because Bettini had refused to sign an anti-doping pledge without any conditions.

Bettini had fiercely defended his own anti-doping reputation, while describing the UCI pledge as extortion and a farce.

"I have 12 years in pro ranks and I had seen many cases of doping," he said on Monday.

"Many friends, many rivals, they were involved in cases.

"A doping positive was a problem for everyone.

"We all felt at fault, we all took the blame. We saw so many cases."