The International Cycling Union (UCI) on Monday rejected accusations by the French Anti-doping Agency (AFLD) that they showed the Astana team preferential treatment over drug tests at the Tour de France.
French newspapers Le Monde and Le Figaro alleged that the team of race winner Alberto Contador and third-placed Lance Armstrong was given an easy ride at the 2009 event.
They quoted a report by AFLD accusing UCI of failing to apply the rules properly to Astana.
In a statement, UCI said the accusations against them were "totally unfounded" and evoked the possibility that they would seek to work "with a neutral partner for anti-doping tests on French soil".
"UCI considers the method of procedure adopted by (AFLD president) Mr Pierre Bordry and his associates completely unacceptable, having published a unilateral report even though UCI and AFLD had agreed to work together on the testing programme for the Tour," they added.
Both Le Monde and Le Figaro carried reports that Astana were shown preferential treatment by drug-testing teams at this summer's race.
"For some teams, the unexpected nature of anti-doping tests did not exist on the Tour," Le Figaro said, adding that the 10-page AFLD report was to be sent on Monday to the UCI and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
The website Le Monde.fr gave details of how Kazakh-backed Astana was allowed "always to have the last tests in the morning, (allowing) more time to go to the tester".
The daily said AFLD doctors noted that on the morning of July 11 in the Astana team hotel, UCI inspectors intervened to allow Astana riders an extra 45 minutes before testing, which was supposed to be carried out immediately under the rules.
"Such tolerance, granted without proper justification, in the absence of escorts, does not follow the faultless regularity of the procedure, particularly ensuring that no manipulation took place," the report said.
Other failures to follow the rules concerning all riders are contained in the report. It also charges that UCI inspectors wrongly labelled tests carried out in team hotels in the mornings and evenings as "outside competition".
"This error is full of serious consequences," the report said, noting that the list of substances banned "in competition" is much more extensive than those banned outside.
Astana has had a stormy year with its financial future repeatedly in doubt. After Spain's Contador won the Tour, his teammate American Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour champion, promptly quit and has joined new American team Radio Shack.
© AFP 2009