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.
"If his return is something serious and he decided to return to professional cycling, the only thing I can say is that I have a team and I can't imagine being at a race and seeing Lance with a CSC or Rabobank jersey," Bruyneel told reporters Tuesday at the Spanish Vuelta cycling race.
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 Dauphine-Libere.
Astana press officer Philippe Maertens again denied that report Tuesday.
"There are no contacts or plans of Team Astana to take Lance Armstrong," he told The Associated Press by phone from Belgium. "As far as I know, Lance Armstrong doesn't have plans to do road cycling.
"But that's a question you have to ask Armstrong," Maertens added. "We have no plans."
Bruyneel said there was no deal to sign Armstrong.
"Firstly, we need to know if the rumor has base and, if it does, we need to know what is the motivation of the rider and then we'll talk," said Bruyneel, who was with Armstrong for all seven Tour wins from 1999-2005. "At the moment we are really far from all of that."
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.
"He's continued training and he's done marathons, but he's coming in with a very different style of life to a sportsman," Bruyneel said. "Three years without competing is a lot."
Still, Astana rider Alberto Contador welcomed the thought of riding alongside Armstrong at cycling's most prestigious race next year.
"It would be an honor to be able to ride with Lance Armstrong," Contador, the 2007 Tour champion, told Europa Press news agency. "Nothing in this news seems strange to me, Lance Armstrong is such an important rider that you can allow for everything.
"He's a rider that you could propose as winning the Tour, but for the moment we can only classify these as rumors."
Maertens said rumors that Armstrong might come out of retirement had been circulating for a few weeks.
"If it would be true that Armstrong wants to come back it would be stupid for us to say no," Maertens said, "but it's not the case."
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.
"So, if he wants to come back to racing he's every right to come back. Good luck to him," said McQuaid, the International Cycling Union president.
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.
"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."
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.
Associated Press Writers Frank Jordans in Geneva, Jerome Pugmire in Paris and Daniel Woolls and Paul Logothetis in Madrid contributed to this report.