Media reports are growing that seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong might be making a comeback. No salary, no bonuses, 36 years of age – it seems like a tall story. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes analyses the chances of the Texan's return.
So, could it be true? Initial reports suggested it might be the case, but the team then dismissed the claims. Will Lance Armstrong return to racing with the Astana team, three years after retiring from the sport?
First off, it's worth assessing what he, or Team Astana, would have to gain if the rumours were true. From the team's point of view, there'd be undoubtedly a lot of extra publicity, a lot of extra Astana-issued Treks and team kit sold, and the increased chance that it would get to ride the biggest races.
Going by the whispers, Armstrong's return would see him ride just five events: the Tour of California, Paris-Nice, Tour de Georgia, Dauphiné Libéré and Tour de France. Two of these are based in the USA and would embrace the news.
However two others, Paris-Nice and the Tour de France, are organised by Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), who this year blocked the Astana cycling team from taking part. At the time the official reason given was that the team had blackened the reputation of the 2007 Tour due to the positive test of Alexander Vinokourov – and the subsequent positive of Andrey Kashechkin – for blood doping. The fact that it grew out of the ashes of the Liberty Seguros team, heavily involved in Operación Puerto, also did it no favours.
For many within the sport, though, the blocking of the team was seen as an anti-US Postal/Discovery Channel move. L'Equipe'sassertion that Armstrong used EPO in winning the 1999 race, suspicions about the team in subsequent years and its willingness to sign Ivan Basso despite his own obvious involvement in Puerto were all minus points.
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