No Tour for me snorted Boonen

Tour de France green jersey Tom Boonen has been barred from next month’s race in the wake of a positive test for cocaine. Tour director Christian Prudhomme announced on Wednesday that Boonen would not be at the Brest start line on July 5 because his positive test for cocaine which although not performance-enhancing, damaged the reputation of the race.

Boonen was earlier supported by his Quick Step team and its manager Patrick Lefevere at a press conference. However Prudhomme, after speaking to Boonen and Lefevere, said the top Belgian 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 May 26 days before the start of the Tour of Belgium where he won the final stage. Because the control was not undertaken by a sports body Boonen cannot be suspended although he risks a substantial fine.

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 and It was then almost inevitable that Tour officials followed suit.

The Tour has required all participating teams to sign a ‘good conduct’ charter by which teams agree not to select riders whose conduct risks damaging the image of the Tour. Lefevere had earlier sought to distinguish 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. “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. [this presumably refers to the fact that Boonen has, in the last six weeks, twice been suspended from driving for speeding. On one occasion he was doing 160kph in a 90kph zone] “I hope that the fans will continue to support me. They will soon be able to count on my unreserved commitment.” Fine words from Tom but it should be noted that Mrs Boonen’s brush with the law reported on greenjersey at the time was concerned with an allegation of cocaine use by Tommeke.

The Flemish Community, in charge of doping controls in the Flanders region, 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.

It seems that Boonen has paid the price for failing as a “role model” whatever that means.

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