Reports say Armstrong to ride again
If Lance Armstrong is ready to return to cycling then Astana team boss Johann Bruyneel doesn't want the seven-time Tour de France champion to ride for anybody else.
Citing anonymous sources, the cycling journal VeloNews reported Monday on its Web site that the 36-year-old Armstrong would compete with Astana in the 2009 Tour de France and four other road races — the Amgen Tour of California, Paris-Nice, the Tour de Georgia and the DauphineLibere.
Astana press officer Philippe Maertens again denied that report Tuesday.
Bruyneel said there was no deal to sign Armstrong.
The Astana team wasn't even allowed to compete in this year's Tour after Alexandre Vinokourov was kicked out of the 2007 Tour for testing positive and the team quit the race.
And Bruyneel is uncertain whether even Armstrong can return after three years out of professional cycling.
Still, Astana rider Alberto Contador welcomed the thought of riding alongside Armstrong at cycling's most prestigious race next year.
Maertens said rumors that Armstrong might come out of retirement had been circulating for a few weeks.
Armstrong at least appears willing to submit to drug testing.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency confirmed Armstrong is part of its out-of-competition testing pool and would be eligible for elite competition on Feb. 1, 2009. The Amgen Tour of California begins Feb. 14.
Pat McQuaid, the leader of cycling's governing body, told the AP he learned a couple of weeks ago that Armstrong is part of USADA's out-of-competition testing pool. He's eligible for elite competition on Feb. 1, 2009.
McQuaid suggested Armstrong might be hoping to take advantage of new, more rigorous drug-testing procedures in cycling to answer skeptics who suspect the champion might have used drugs when he reigned cycling.
Armstrong did not respond to text messages and voice mails left by the AP. His manager, Mark Higgins also did not respond to voice mails left by the AP.
Armstrong, who overcame testicular cancer, has largely turned his competitive juices to running marathons since he retired from competitive cycling three years ago.
In August, he finished second in the Leadville Trail 100, a lung-searing 100mile mountain bike race through the Colorado Rockies.