The International Cycling Union said yesterday that it will investigate reports of positive drug tests at the 1999 Tour de France, but stopped short of naming seven-time winner Lance Armstrong.

The allegations, which surfaced last week in the French daily sports newspaper L'Equipe, said Armstrong used the performance-enhancing drug EPO to help win his first Tour de France in 1999.

Armstrong, a frequent target of L'Equipe, has denied the allegations.

The governing body said it regretted the breach of confidentiality in the disclosure of samples, but said it was pressing ahead with its own assessment.

The cycling union said it "will communicate its conclusions on this case within the next 10 days."

L'Equipe reported Aug. 23 that six of Armstrong's urine samples tested positive for the red blood cell booster erythropoietin (EPO).

The drug was on the list of banned substances at the time, but there was no effective test to detect it. The paper's investigation was based solely on B samples -- the second half of samples used in doping tests. The A samples were used up in 1999.

Tour de France Director Jean-Marie Leblanc said the report appeared "credible" and meticulously researched, adding that Armstrong must have a chance to deny the claims.

-- From News Services