- Belgium - cycling - doping - Tour de France
AFP - Belgian star Tom Boonen has been given a chance to compete in next month's Tour de France despite a recent, second positive test for cocaine.
Quick Step star Boonen, the winner of major one-day classics and Tour de France stages, sparked controversy last month when it was revealed he had tested positive for cocaine for the second time in a year.
It led to immediate calls for him to be banned from this year's showcase event, and the sport's ruling body the UCI (International Cycling Union) is set to launch disciplinary proceedings against Boonen for bringing the sport into disrepute.
The UCI said Wednesday it would not be able to complete such a disciplinary process before the July 4-26 Tour, meaning that Boonen, "according to the regulations" was free to race in the Tour.
The Belgian star is currently racing the Dauphine Libere in France, a major warm-up for the Tour de France.
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme, who was present here, was shocked to hear the UCI's stance and said race officials would now meet to decide Boonen's fate for the race.
"We've just learned like everyone else that Boonen is free to race but we will need two or three days to decide whether he will be invited on the Tour," said Prudhomme.
UCI chief Pat McQuaid said earlier Boonen will eventually face some kind of sanction for his actions, which, because they occurred out of competition, means he cannnot face a traditional drugs ban.
"I still stand by my request for him to be sanctioned, but there's a long process that has to be followed and that takes time," McQuaid said at a conference aimed at launching the UCI's anti-doping plan at next month's race.
"That process won't take place before the end of June. Even if it did, he has a right of appeal and from that point of view we cannot intervene in that process.
"Boonen can race, until such times as disciplinary measures decide otherwise."