Tom Boonen still hopeful of racing in Tour de France

Cocaine user hopes to reach agreement with organisers

Belgian cyclist Tom Boonen still hopes to ride in the Tour de France in July, contradicting officials who said he would not race after he tested positive for cocaine earlier this year.

"I hope to take part in the Tour and we are attempting to reach agreement with the organisers as we want to avoid legal proceedings," the 28-year-old told reporters at a cycling festival at Gullegem in Belgium today (2nd June).

Tour organisers stated last month that Boonen would not compete in this year's race, after he tested positive for cocaine for the third time in the last year-and-a-half at the end of April, during a break from competitive cycling.

"It's obviously impossible for Tom Boonen to start the Tour," event director Christian Prudhomme said then.

Boonen's positive cocaine test came less than 12 months after he was shown to have used the drug for the first time in May 2008.

He was forced to miss last year's Tour de France as a consequence of the first test.

The 2005 world champion will 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 he could face criminal charges.

Last week International Cycling Union chief Pat McQuaid said he considered Boonen could still race in the 2009 Tour but would have to defend himself before a disciplinary panel.

The three-time Paris-Roubaix winner has been suspended indefinitely by his Quick Step team.

Boonen says he has been training in the Pyrenees mountains, undertaking several climbs which feature in the 2009 Tour map.

In the coming weeks, Boonen plans to to compete in the week-long Dauphine Libere, the Halle-Ingooigem, the Ster Elektrotoer and the Belgian championships.

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