The International Cycling Union has appointed a Dutch lawyer to conduct an independent investigation into allegations Lance Armstrong tested positive for EPO during the 1999 Tour de France.

The cycling body said yesterday in Aigle, Switzerland, that Emile Vrijman and his law firm would "undertake a comprehensive investigation regarding all issues concerning the testing conducted by the French laboratory of urine samples" from the '99 Tour.

Vrijman's firm is based in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and he is a former director of the Netherlands' national anti-doping agency.

In August, the French sports daily L'Equipe claimed six of Armstrong's urine samples from 1999 came back positive for the endurance-boosting hormone EPO when they were retested last year.

The seven-time Tour de France champion denied ever using banned drugs and said he was the victim of a "witch hunt."

Another French newspaper, Le Journal du Dimanche, identified other riders who allegedly tested positive for EPO in '99 as Spain's Manuel Beltran, Denmark's Bo Hamburger and Colombia's Joaquim Castelblanco. They all denied the claims.

UCI said yesterday the World Anti-Doping Agency had notified the federation of plans to open its own investigation.

The leaders of WADA and UCI have been engaged in a bitter feud over the case. Last month, WADA chief Dick Pound accused former UCI president Hein Verbruggen of leaking documents about the alleged positive tests to L'Equipe. He also questioned UCI's willingness to fully investigate the allegations.

UCI denied Pound's accusations and claimed he was blocking its investigation by withholding information.

-- From News Services