Astana spokesman Filipp Maertens has told the Belgian press that ?Johan Bruyneel would prefer to die before signing Alexandre Vinokourov.?

Maertens dramatic comments came after it was revealed by cyclingweekly.co.uk that Vinokourov might be considering a return to racing after his one-year ban for blood doping runs out this July.

However, it is clear from Maertens that whoever Vinokourov might be considering signing for Astana are not in the slightest bit interested in having him back.

Team manager Johan Bruyneel was brought in at the beginning of the year as part of an attempt to restore some credibility to the team, which took a major battering after Vinokourov tested positive during last year?s Tour de France.

Maertens added that an Astana team mechanic has been going on rides with Vinokourov but that the question of a return to racing had never once come up during their conversations.

?At the moment, as far as we know Vino? is focussing on sorting out the paperwork for his new sports centre just outside Nice.?

UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani has confirmed that cycling?s governing body is ?following the affair closely.?

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