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World champion Tom Boonen and his Quick Step team manager Patrick Lefvre are threatening Belgian senator Jean-Marie Dedecker with legal action after he told Actua-TV that three leading Belgian riders were following a doping programme in Italy last February. When asked if Belgian superstar Boonen was one of those involved, Dedecker just smiled and refused to say one way or the other.
Lefvre has responded in the strongest possible terms. "When someone announces that one of this country's top riders is involved in doping everyone thinks of Tom Boonen," said the Quick Step boss. "How many other Belgian riders are really at that level? He has personally attacked us, even though he hasn't stated the name of my rider. We are going to sue Dedacker for slander and defamation. It's an attack on Tom Boonen and on cycling."
Boonen also expressed his unhappiness with the senator's comments. "Dedecker repeated them on the radio. He said that Belgium doesn't have just three riders at the top level - were they Boonen, Boonen and Boonen he was asked? Dedecker responded that he didn't name anyone, but he didn't deny anything."
Lefvre told La Dernire Heure in Belgium: "If it's publicity for his electoral campaign, it's misplaced. I know that when he was the national judo coach, he brought several stars through, but I also know that from a sporting point of view he wasn't a major name. We just don't want him talking out of place. On Wednesday I will be meeting with my ProTour team colleagues in Paris. I will be asking the association of directeurs sportifs to also start an action against Dedecker."
The Belgian federation has also entered the affair, asking Dedecker to back up his allegations with some facts. "The Belgian federation is astonished that Monsieur Dedecker has given this information to a daily paper but not to the disciplinary commission of the Belgian federation," said the organisation's director Tom van Damme.
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