WADA chairman Dick Pound says the image of cycling and the Tour de France is "in the toilet."

The chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency had some harsh words for the cycling world Sunday, urging authorities of the sport to take tougher action against doping.

Dick Pound said the image of cycling and the Tour de France is "in the toilet."

"You've got to do something about it or the risk is that your sport will be ignored by everybody, marginalized by others, and it won't be a sport any more," he added.

A doping scandal involving 56 riders rocked the Tour on Friday, with Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich among the nine competitors barred from the race.

Ullrich, the 1997 Tour de France champion, was suspended from the race along with T-Mobile teammate Oscar Sevilla.

Basso and Spanish racers Francisco Mancebo and Joseba Beloki were also disqualified.

On Saturday, the head of cycling's governing body said those implicated in the scandal deserve severe punishment if found guilty.

"If, ultimately, these guys are proven guilty, and their careers are over and they get four years, I have no sympathy for them," Pat McQuaid, head of the International Cycling Union, said from the start of the Tour in Strasbourg, France.

Five members of the Astana-Wurth team were implicated and withdrew from this year's race.

In May, Spanish police carried out arrests and raids, seizing drugs and frozen blood thought to have been readied for banned, performance-enhancing transfusions.

"Under these circumstances, if I had a child who showed some potential in this, I'd say, 'It appears that if you want to get to the top of this sport you've got to use all these drugs, so why don't we find some other sport for you,'"Pound said.

"I think cycling generally has been pretty close to clinical denial about the extent of the problem in this sport and now this is open for the entire world to see."

Last November, Pound made headlines when he slammed the National Hockey League's drug policy.

At the time, he stated as many as a third of the NHL's 700 players may be taking some kind of performance-enhancing drug.

Also, the IOC has called for an independent inquiry to help resolve the feud between cycling star Lance Armstrong and Pound.

In mid-June, Armstrong's eight-page letter to IOC president Jacques Rogge sharply criticized Pound for trying to keep alive the doping allegations against the seven-time Tour de France champion.

With files from Associated Press