Cycling's world governing body criticized world doping authorities and a French sports newspaper for alleging seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong used performance-enhancing substances six years ago.

The UCI said yesterday in Geneva that it was still gathering information and had asked the World Anti-Doping Agency and the French laboratory that tested the samples taken from Armstrong in 1999 for more background. It also wanted to know who commissioned the research and who agreed to make it public.

"How could this be done without the rider's consent?" the UCI said.

Last month, Armstrong was accused of doping by L'Equipe, which reported that the blood booster EPO was found in six of his 1999 urine "B" samples.

Armstrong has angrily denied the charges, saying he was the victim of a "witch hunt." He questioned the validity of testing samples frozen six years ago, and how the samples were handled.

"I'm pleased the UCI is investigating this entire matter thoroughly because any professional investigation will reveal that the allegations made by a French sports tabloid have no basis because I never used any performance-enhancing drugs," Armstrong said in a statement. "Based on the translation I read of the press release, I'm pleased that the UCI seems to be asking many of the right questions."

-- From News Services