Tom Boonen "didn't ingest cocaine"

By AFP | Thursday, June 18, 2009 10.11am

Belgian star Tom Boonen seemingly did not ingest cocaine, the substance for which he tested positive six weeks ago for the second time in a year, Belgian media Thursday quoted a panel of independent experts as saying.

The panel based their conclusion on the small quantity of the substance found in the Belgian racer's hair samples examined by the BelgianUniversity of Louvain and the University of Strasbourg in France, Sporza television reported.

Those results point to the sprinter having been in only indirect contact with the drug.

The former world champion has stated that the day before the test he had had a blackout following a drinking session and could not remember anything

Quick Step star Boonen, the winner of major one-day classics and Tour de France stages, faced calls for him to be banned from this year's showcase event, and the sport's ruling body the UCI (International Cycling Union) has been mulling disciplinary proceedings against him.

The Belgian's team has sent the results of the hair analysis to the UCI and to ASO, organisers of the Tour de France, in the hope that he may now be allowed to compete.

The 28-year-old's team is backing him and hopes he will be allowed to race, promising to provide legal support if he is refused entry.

The UCI said earlier this month it would not be able to complete any disciplinary process before the July 4-26 Tour, meaning that Boonen, "according to the regulations" would be in any case free to race.

According to Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevere, "the sporting and economic damage for team and sponsors (which would arise from) the absence of Tom in the biggest race of the year are incalculable." He has threatened to demand millions of euros in compensation if the racer is excluded.

UCI chief Pat McQuaid is on record as saying Boonen will eventually face some kind of sanction although, as he was tested out of competition, he cannot face a traditional drugs ban.

© 2009 AFP

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