A French newspaper claimed on Friday that Lance Armstrong admitted to doping three years before the first of his seven Tour de France wins in 1999.
The Texan, retired from cycling since his seventh consecutive Tour victory last year, has consistently insisted that he never took banned drugs to enhance his performances and he was never sanctioned for any doping offence during his career.
But Le Monde said former Armstrong teammate Frankie Andreu, and his wife, Betsy, recently testified under oath to a Dallas court that Armstrong admitted in 1996 to having taken the blood-boosting hormone EPO and other banned substances.
The paper said Frankie Andreu used to be best friends with Armstrong.
Le Monde claimed that Armstrong's alleged admission was made on October 28, 1996, to a doctor who was treating him for cancer.
Betsy Andreu testified that the doctor asked Armstrong whether he had ever taken doping products, and that the cyclist replied "yes," according to Le Monde.
The newspaper said she and her husband were with Armstrong on that day.
"He asks which ones. And Lance replies, 'EPO, growth hormones, cortisone, steroids, testosterone,"' it quoted her as telling the court in January.
The newspaper said it obtained a copy of her testimony but did not say how.
The court was hearing a case brought by Armstrong against a company that withheld a bonus for his 2004 Tour win because a book alleged that he used performance-enhancers.
The court ruled in Armstrong's favor in February.
Le Monde said that Frankie Andreu, who raced with Armstrong for the first two of his Tour wins in 1999 and 2000, gave a similar deposition last October, also alleging that Armstrong told the doctor that he used EPO, testosterone, growth hormone and cortisone.
But the newspaper said the Andreus' account was denied by a third person, Stephanie McIlvain, a friend of Armstrong's who supposedly was also at the session with the doctor. She testified that she did not hear Armstrong make such an admission, Le Monde said.
In his own defence, Armstrong said in a November deposition to the court that no doctor had asked him whether he had used doping products, according to the newspaper.
It said Armstrong also told the court that Betsy Andreu hated him and that Frankie Andreu had gone along with her account to offer her support.