The decision by the International Cycling Union (UCI) to disband its own inquiry into the Lance Armstrong doping scandal has been branded "a rank and disgraceful manipulation of power" by campaigners.

The UCI's decision to terminate the independent commission followed weeks of wrangling over its powers and whether those who testified could receive an amnesty.

The central issue concerned two donations by disgraced drugs cheat Armstrong to the governing body, and whether there was any complicity by the UCI in covering up his doping.

Change Cycling Now (CCN), the pressure group set up in November, called for the UCI's leadership including president Pat McQuaid to be removed.

A CCN statement read: "The UCI's unilateral decision to disband the independent commission set up to review the UCI's own management of anti-doping procedures, is a rank and disgraceful manipulation of power by a governing body concerned only with self-preservation.

"Change Cycling Now today calls on the general sport of cycling, its national federations and other global stakeholders to enforce the removal of a manipulative and contemptible administration that is content to drag cycling further into disrepute in order to safeguard the positions of its leaders.

"As soon as it became apparent that the commissioners had escaped its covert control, the UCI simply dismantled the whole process rather than risk being unmasked."

The UCI insist it has switched its focus to a truth and reconciliation commission after the World Anti-Doping Agency and US Anti-Doping Agency said they would take no part in the commission unless an amnesty was offered to witnesses: something the UCI said could not happen.

UCI president Pat McQuaid said last night that WADA's refusal to participate had made the decision to scrap the commission necessary.

He added: "We have decided that a truth and reconciliation process is the best way to examine the culture of doping in cycling in the past and to clear the air so that cycling can move forward.

"We have therefore decided to disband the independent commission with immediate effect."

CCN founder Jaimie Fuller called the UCI's statement "an odorous mismash of self-serving misinformation".

Fuller, the head of sportswear giant Skins, said: "It is disgraceful and, frankly ridiculous that the UCI now suggests it is saving the whole process by organising its own review of itself and suggesting that it is merely complying with the wishes of others.

"Cycling's future prosperity can only be assured by an administration that cares about the sport rather than itself. There can surely be no doubt that the president and his senior colleagues must now be removed from office."