In a four-page story, the sports tabloid claimed Armstrong, who lives in Austin, Texas, had tested positive six times for the banned blood booster EPO during his first Tour victory in July 1999, the Austin American-Statesman reported Thursday.
"For the first time -- and these are no longer rumors or insinuations; these are proven scientific facts -- someone has shown me that in 1999 Armstrong had a banned substance called EPO in his body," Tour Director Jean-Marie Leblanc was quoted as telling L'Equipe.
"The ball is now in his court. Why, how, by whom? He owes explanations to us and to everyone who follows the tour. Today, what L'Equipe revealed shows me that I was fooled. We were all fooled."
Armstrong asserted emphatically that he has never taken a performance-enhancing drug, the American-Statesman reported.
He said he was so frustrated that he phoned Leblanc Tuesday to discuss the allegations. He said he was stunned to learn Wednesday that Leblanc had told L'Equipe that Armstrong had "fooled" his fans.
"But to say that I've fooled the fans is preposterous," said Armstrong.