Boonen's criminal drug charges dropped

DiLuca claims EPO results 'conspiracy'

Belgian cyclist Tom Boonen has been told that all criminal charges relating to his use of cocaine will be dropped if he pays a €1,000 fine, the public prosecutor in Turnhout, Belgium said Wednesday.

The court said if Boonen, a former world champion and Tour de France stage winner who is a specialist in the Belgian one-day classics for Team QuickStep, paid the fine, the case would be closed.

"We consider Boonen as just another consumer of drugs, not as a famous sportsman of whom an example should be made," the public prosecutor was quoted as saying in Het Nieuwsblad newspaper.

Cocaine, although illegal, is not considered a performance-enhancing drug and both of Boonen's tests were not carried out by the sporting authorities.

He first tested positive in April 2008, ruling him out of last year's Tour de France.

His second positive test was in May 2009, which also ruled him out of the world's biggest race until he was granted a shock eleventh hour reprieve. He abandoned the Tour after stage 14.

'It's a conspiracy!' says DiLuca

Italian cyclist Danilo Di Luca on Wednesday claimed he was the victim of a conspiracy after twice testing positive for banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin) during May's Tour of Italy.

Di Luca finished second in the event he previously won in 2007 but returned positive tests for the new-generation EPO called Cera on both May 22 and 28.

He won two stages during the Giro and held the leader's pink jersey for eight days before eventually losing to Russian Denis Menchov by just 41 seconds.

"I just can't explain the two positive tests at the Giro. I'm not ruling out a conspiracy but before I can confirm it I have to be sure," he said during his meeting with the Italian Olympic Committee's (Coni) anti-doping prosecutor.

The 33-year-old was given a one month extension to his hearing after arguing that he didn't have all the information he needed to supply a proper defence.

He was temporarily suspended on July 22 after the results of his tests were published.

"I said previously that if my B samples confirmed the positive tests I would retire from cycling but now I've changed my mind and I am certain I will ride again in the Tour of Italy," added Di Luca. "My lawyers and I have some serious doubts about the method used in the doping tests which have produced positive results.

"These methods have already given false positives and I think that's the case with me. I would have to be a man without a brain to have used Cera, which stays in the blood and urine for a month, especially during the Giro."

This was not the first doping controversy Di Luca has found himself involved in.

During his Tour of Italy victory in 2007 he produced an abnormal dope test and anti-doping prosecutors here requested a two-year ban but he was acquitted due to a lack of evidence.

He did, however, serve a three month ban last year for his involvement in the 'Oil for drugs' scandal of 2004.

© 2009 AFP

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