- Bonnie D. Ford, Enterprise and Olympic Sports
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Lance Armstrong recently refused to rule out the prospect of Floyd Landis joining his new team, and Landis said that although the possibility is remote, he also wouldn't completely reject it.
Landis told ESPN.com he is under contract for the 2010 season with the management company that owns his current squad, sponsored by OUCH, a southern California medical practice whose staff includes Landis' personal physician.
The team is seeking new sponsorship for next year. Landis, whose 2006 Tour de France title was stripped following a doping conviction, returned in February from a suspension of more than two years.
Bloomberg.com reported Tuesday that Armstrong, who was in Dublin attending his foundation's Global Cancer Summit, responded to a question about Landis, his former U.S. Postal Service teammate, by saying, "I wouldn't rule anything out. He's a great rider, a tremendous story."
Landis said in a telephone interview that it would be improper for him to talk about his prospects with another team when he is under contract to OUCH. In the hypothetical event that OUCH ceased to exist and Landis were to become a free agent, he said he would consider an overture from Armstrong's Team RadioShack, just as he would from any elite outfit.
Team RadioShack will debut at the 2010 Tour Down Under in Australia, Armstrong announced on his Twitter page Wednesday. The Tour Down Under runs Jan. 17-24.
"I don't think Lance was trying to start a rumor -- he was responding to a question," Landis said. "He wants to win another Tour, and he's trying to hire guys who can help him do that. I was his teammate and he knows he could count on me. Why rule anything out?"
Landis, who will turn 34 in October, will race in both the road and time-trial events in this weekend's U.S. national road cycling championships in Greenville, S.C., the first time in a decade. Those championships, held for many years in early June in Philadelphia, did not fit into Landis' schedule when he was competing in Europe.
Landis said he has no intention of retiring and believe he will be stronger next year with a full season of racing in his legs. His results this season have not approached his former level. Landis said that is a combination of rust and taking on support duties in some races.
The San Diego-area resident and ex-mountain biking standout fought his positive test for synthetic testosterone through two rounds of arbitration, spending $2 million, including funds raised from supporters. He also underwent a successful hip replacement and endured a painful divorce and public airing of his personal and financial losses.
His history with Armstrong and RadioShack's presumptive director, Johan Bruyneel (who is negotiating an exit from his contract with Astana), is complex. Landis, raised by a Mennonite family in southeastern Pennsylvania, joined the U.S. Postal Service team in 2002 and rode in support of three of Armstrong's seven Tour victories.
But Landis eventually chafed at his role on the Postal team and left to ride for Switzerland-based Phonak before the 2005 season. He and Armstrong sniped at each other on several occasions that year.
Landis was unexpectedly elevated to team leader status at Phonak when fellow American Tyler Hamilton was suspended for using a banned transfusion to boost his performance.
Landis' first-place finish in the 2006 Tour was largely due to his performance in Stage 17, when he surprised the peloton by taking off solo in the Alps after a bad day that seemingly knocked him out of contention.
His urine samples from that stage, analyzed at a laboratory outside Paris, led to the charges against him.
Armstrong, who has frequently criticized French anti-doping officials for their actions toward him, made supportive statements about Landis before and after his case was decided.
Bonnie D. Ford covers tennis and Olympic sports for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
The chances of Floyd Landis joining his one-time team leader Lance Armstrong at Team RadioShack are probably remote, although neither man would completely dismiss the possibility this week.