Boonen barred from Tour de France
The world champion is not welcome at the race because he risks damaging the reputation of the race, says race director.12 June 2008
SAINT-PAUL-EN-JAREZ - 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 told AFP on Wednesday that Boonen would
not be at the Brest start line on 5 July 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
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.
Prudhomme said: "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.
"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 26 May.
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 EUR 1,000 and 100,000.
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 in the wake of 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.
A team statement later read: "In the last 24 hours there have been several conversations with the representatives of ASO (Tour de France).
"The team is sorry to have not been able to meet the representatives of ASO before the decision was taken, considering that the result of the test undergone by Boonen won't have any consequence on a professional and sporting level."
Prudhomme agreed, but added: "It's not a case of performances being improved, this is something that has happened in a social sphere well outside of sport.
"Tom Boonen is a big champion but a big champion must also be exemplary."
In a statement read at the start of the press conference Boonen apologised for the pain caused to his team and his family.
"I'm not going to defend myself here today but I hurt my family, my friends and my team and I apologise," said Boonen.
"I've been in the news recently in a negative way. I'm not perfect and I'll accept the consequences. I'm now going to get some rest and I can count on the confidence of my team.
"I hope that the fans will continue to support me. They will soon be able to count on my unreserved commitment."
The Flemish Community, in charge of doping controls in the north of the country, said they will not be taking any action against Boonen, nor will he face International Cycling Union (UCI) sanctions.
"If the information is confirmed as it is an out-of-competition control, UCI rules like those of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) do not provide for any sanctions for cocaine," a UCI spokesman said on Tuesday.
[AFP / Expatica]