Top Spanish sports media newspaper MARCA have added extra intensity to the rumours linking Alberto Contador to Astana by reporting on Wednesday that the 2007 Tour winner – together with Discovery Channel manager Johan Bruyneel – will join the Kazakh squad for 2008.

According to Spanish newspaper MARCA – although there has been no direct confirmation – Contador and Bruyneel have accepted the Kazakh team?s offer. Citing what the newspaper calls ?completely reliable sources?, the paper claims the only remaining obstacle to a ?definitive contract? is the current team manager, Marc Biver.

Astana?s future was rumoured to be uncertain following Alexandre Vinokourov and Andrey Kashechkin?s positive dope tests this summer. Having quit the Tour de France under a cloud, their invitation to the Vuelta was then withdrawn because of the doping cases.

But rather than throw in the towel, the Kazakh squad has apparently opted to continue in cycling.

Belgian website Sporza claimed on Monday that Contador’s Discovery Channel team-mate Levi Leipheimer had already signed a letter of intent to join the squad. Two days later, Marca?s headline simply stated directly ?Contador to Astana:? and even talks of an agreement for a two-year contract, with an option for a third season. Andreas Klöden is rumoured, so the newspaper claimed, to stay in the team, although Milram could remain a possibility.

Apparently neither Bruyneel or Contador were available for comment on Tuesday. But Contador has said on repeated occasions he would like to stay with Bruyneel, as well as taking two domestiques, Sergio Paulinho and Benjamin Noval, with him to whichever new team he signs for in 2008.

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www.isupportdrugfreesport.com.