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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 September 2005, 15:05 GMT 16:05 UK
Armstrong considers shock return
Lance Armstrong
Lance Armstrong says he could come out of retirement to try for an eighth straight Tour de France victory.

Armstrong said: "While I'm absolutely enjoying my time as a retired athlete, the recent smear campaign out of France has awoken my competitive side.

"I'm thinking it's the best way to p*** [the French] off. I'm not willing to put a percentage on the chances but I will no longer rule it out."

Asked how serious he was, Armstrong replied: "I'm exercising every day."

Armstrong believes he is the target of a "witch hunt" by the French media.

French sports daily L'Equipe reported in August that urine samples taken from Armstrong during his first Tour victory in 1999 tested positive for the banned substance EPO.

There will always be a place on the team for him if he decides to come back
Johan Bruyneel
Armstrong's team manager at Discovery Channel
The 33-year-old, who recovered from cancer, has always vehemently denied taking any performance-enhancing drugs.

He retired in July after winning his seventh straight Tour de France.

Armstrong's spokesman Mark Higgins insists the cycling legend is serious about a possible comeback.

"He's still fit and very much in his prime," said Higgins. " He is not ruling out a return to racing.

"In light of the stuff that's been going on in the past few weeks, a comeback has become appealing.

"At the same time, he's a retired athlete who is very much enjoying being with his children and working with charities. And he just got engaged. We'll just have to see."

Johan Bruyneel, Armstrong's team manager at Discovery Channel, said the door was still open for the star rider to return.

"We could decide during our training camp in December, which will be decisive (for the Tour)," Bruyneel told the Belgian news agency Belga.

"But don't make me say that Lance has already decided what he will do with the rest of his career. That said, we speak for 15 minutes on the phone every day, and for 13 of those we talk about cycling."

"He got back on the bike to train three weeks after the end of the Tour de France. He follows the team's progress closely and it's sure that he's still hungry for success.

"There will always be a place on the team for him if he decides to come back. Anyway, he's still under contract with us till the end of 2006."

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