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Lance Armstrong’s former sporting director says reports of the American’s comeback are merely “a rumor,” and Astana’s press officer repeated his denial that the team had struck any deal with the seven-time Tour de France champion.
In dismissing the story first reported by VeloNews.com, Astana’s Johan Bruyneel told Agence France Presse that it would be “difficult” for the 36-year-old American to return to the top level of the sport.
Still, Bruyneel added: “If he were serious about a comeback … myself having a team I could not imagine him at CSC or Rabobank,” he said.
Bruyneel said he had not spoken with Armstrong, but intended to do so soon.
Astana press officer Philippe Maertens also reiterated that the team had no plans to work with Armstrong in 2009.
“There are no contacts or plans of Team Astana to take Lance Armstrong,” he told The Associated Press by phone from Belgium. “If it would be true that Armstrong wants to come back it would be stupid for us to say no, but it’s not the case.”
UCI president Pat McQuaid, meanwhile, told the AP he learned a couple of weeks ago that Armstrong had applied to re-enter the U.S. States Anti-Doping Agency’s out-of-competition testing pool. Athletes must be in the pool for at least six months before participating in elite-level competition.
“So, if he wants to come back to racing he’s every right to come back. Good luck to him,” said McQuaid.
McQuaid suggested that if Armstrong were planning a comeback, he might be hoping to use cycling’s strengthened drug-testing regimen to rebut skeptics who doubt his victories were achieved without performance-enhancing substances.
“It may be that he has a little bit of a chip on his shoulder because of the accusations and rumors surrounding him, none of which were ever proven,” McQuaid said.
“And he wants to come back and show that, now that there is a new system in place, which is the biological passport, which can show any type of manipulation of the blood, he wants to come back and show that he is the athlete he claims he was, that his results have shown.”