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Cycling body says it has no doping evidence against Lance Armstrong

GENEVA — Cycling's governing body said Friday it had received no evidence of doping by Lance Armstrong and criticized world doping authorities and a French sports newspaper for making allegations against the seven-time Tour de France champion.

"The UCI has not to date received any official information or document" from anti-doping authorities or the laboratory reportedly involved in the testing of urine samples from the 1999 Tour de France, the cycling federation said.

Allegations that EPO was found in Armstrong's 1999 urine samples were first reported by the French sports daily L'Equipe last month.

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.

UCI said it was still gathering information and had asked the World Anti-Doping Agency and the French laboratory 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 riders' consent?" the UCI said.

It also asked WADA to say if it allowed the results to be disseminated, which UCI says is a "breach of WADA's anti-doping code."

"We have substantial concerns about the impact of this matter on the integrity of the overall drug testing regime of the Olympic movement, and in particular the questions it raises over the trustworthiness of some of the sports and political authorities active in the anti-doping fight," the UCI said.

UCI president Hein Verbruggen has asked for harsh sanctions against dopers and suggested Armstrong should face sanctions if here were shown to be guilty.

He also told Friday's Le Figaro that Armstrong had proposed before the Tour that all of his urine samples be kept for tests over the next 10 years.

UCI said it was still "awaiting plausible answers" to its requests to WADA and the laboratory.

"We deplore the fact that the long-established and entrenched confidentiality principle could be violated in such a flagrant way without any respect for fair play and the rider's privacy," it said.

UCI singled out WADA president Dick Pound for making "public statements about the likely guilt of an athlete on the basis of a newspaper article and without all the facts being known."

It also criticized the article in L'Equipe as "targeting a particular athlete."

L'Equipe said it would react of UCI's criticism in Saturday editions. Tour de France organizers had no immediate reaction, spokesman Matthieu Desplats said.

Claude Droussent, the editor of L'Equipe, denied his newspaper targeted Armstrong because he is American, and said it would have treated a French rider the same.

Armstrong retired after winning his seventh straight Tour title in July, but said this week he is considering a comeback. He plans to attend the Discovery Channel team training camp this winter.