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IOC Chief Wants Armstrong Inquiry

IOC president Jacques Rogge (search) called Friday for outside "independent observers" to investigate allegations that seven-time Tour de France (search) champion Lance Armstrong (search) tested positive for EPO at the 1999 race.

Both the International Cycling Union and the World Anti-Doping Agency have announced separate inquiries into the case, but Rogge said he prefers a fully independent probe.

"I have asked that an independent inquiry be started to pinpoint the different responsibilities," Rogge said, adding he hoped "the inquiry, if possible, would also be able to show whether the sample was positive."

In August, the French sports paper L'Equipe published documentation alleging six of Armstrong's frozen urine samples from the 1999 Tour came back positive for endurance-boosting EPO when they were retested last year.

Armstrong denied using banned drugs and said he was the victim of a "witch hunt."

Rogge wants a group of "independent observers" who are linked to WADA but operate autonomously to settle the issues if the UCI and WADA investigations lead to different conclusions.

"If they have the same conclusion, no problem. But if they differ it would be good to go to the independent observers," he said.

Rogge questioned whether the samples belonged to Armstrong and whether they contained EPO. He insisted Armstrong's rights had not properly been respected.

"Armstrong still enjoys the presumption of innocence," he said in an interview on the sideline of a meeting with Belgian business leaders.

Rogge also said he wants to extend to all sporting federations the system of keeping doping samples for eight years for possible retroactive sanctions. He hopes WADA will come up with a viable procedure within the coming months.

"It can be solved quickly," he said.

On Thursday, the UCI said it appointed Dutch lawyer Emile Vrijman and his firm to conduct an independent investigation into L'Equipe's allegations. The cycling body said WADA's investigation was flawed because it was an "involved party."

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.

Cycling did not test for EPO until 2001. Backup "B" samples from 1999 were frozen and tested for EPO last year. Any sanctions are unlikely because the original "A" samples were used up and can't be verified for confirmation.