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By Agence France Presse
Belgian rider Tom Boonen could still take part in the Tour de France despite his recent positive test for cocaine, according to UCI president Pat McQuaid.
“There is no reason to ban Tom Boonen from the Tour. From the point of view of sporting regulations, nothing can stop Boonen. He has committed no fault in his capacity as a rider,” McQuaid told Belgium’s De Standaard newspaper.
“As UCI president, I think he has harmed the image of the sport,” McQuaid said. “That I cannot accept. It’s for that reason that the affair has been brought before the UCI’s disciplinary committee. Boonen will have to defend himself there but it could last several weeks.”
Boonen, who recently claimed a third victory in the prestigious Paris-Roubaix one-day classic, tested positive for cocaine in April – less than a year after he first tested positive for the drug, in May 2008.
It was believed the 2005 world champion would not be punished by the sport’s authorities because cocaine does not feature on the list of cycling’s banned substances for out-of-competition periods. But the UCI said Boonen’s actions had brought the sport into disrepute and threatened him with a ban ranging from one to six months.
Boonen has since been suspended by his Quick Step team, which has, nonetheless, committed to getting the career of the 28-year-old, one of biggest names in the sport in the past five years, back on the rails.
Boonen will be back in the saddle in Gullegem on June 2, and will go on to compete in the week-long Dauphine Libere, the Halle-Ingooigem, the Ster Elektrotoer and the Belgian championships, news agency Belga reported