Fri, Jun 13, 2008 - Page 22 News List

Boonen barred from Tour de France over cocaine test

AFP , SAINT-PAUL-EN-JAREZ, FRANCE

Belgian cyclist Tom Boonen gives a press conference on Wednesday at his team's headquarters in Wielsbeke, Flanders, a day after it was announced that the Paris-Roubaix winner tested positive for cocaine.

PHOTO: AFP

Tour de France green jersey champion Tom Boonen has been barred from next month’s race in the wake of a positive test for cocaine.

Race director Christian Prudhomme said on Wednesday that Boonen would not be at the Brest start line on July 5 because his positive test, while not performance-enhancing, damaged the reputation of the race.

The 2005 world champion and reigning Paris-Roubaix champion was given the support of his Quick Step team and its manager Patrick Lefevere at an earlier press conference. But hours later Prudhomme, after speaking to Boonen and Lefevere, said the six-time stage winner — one of the biggest faces in cycling — would not be welcome because he risked damaging the race’s reputation.

“As far as we are concerned, Tom Boonen is automatically ruled out of the Tour de France as soon as the information concerning his case has been confirmed,” Prudhomme said. “The integrity of the Tour, and of the teams participating in the Tour, could be harmed. It doesn’t help we’re only three weeks from the start.”

Boonen, the winner of last year’s green jersey for the race’s points competition, tested positive in an out of competition control by the ministry of the Flemish Community on May 26.

Because the control was not undertaken by a sports body Boonen cannot be handed a sporting sanction such as a ban, although he risks a fine of anything between 1,000 euros (US$1,546) and 100,000 euros.

The news of Boonen’s cocaine positive, which emerged just as Quick Step announced they would be given another three years of their sponsors’ money, prompted the Tour of Switzerland to withdraw Boonen from the invite list.

It was then almost inevitable that Tour officials followed suit.

The Tour has a strict code of ethics, which has been reinforced amid continuous doping affairs, and all participating teams recently signed the “good conduct” charter by which teams agree to not align, or pull out, riders whose conduct risks damaging the image of the event.

Lefevere had earlier stressed the difference between “real doping problems” in cycling and the difficulties of a “private” nature of their star.

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