French authorities have opened a preliminary inquiry into drug allegations against six-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong of the United States.

The probe stems from a book published last year in which the rider's former masseuse claims Armstrong asked her to get rid of a bag containing needles used by him on the 1998 Tour of the Netherlands.  Armstrong has vigorously and consistently denied the allegations.

French police conducted interviews last year, and a judge will decide whether to pursue the case.

Last July, a Paris appeals court turned down Armstrong's request that the book should include his outright denial of the allegations.  Armstrong says he will decide in April whether he will take part in this year's Tour de France.

Some information for this story provided by AP and Reuters.