Tom Boonen tests positive for cocaine

Quick Step racer will escape doping suspension

Former world champion Tom Boonen has tested positive for cocaine, Belgian judicial authorities confirmed on Tuesday.

The Paris-Roubaix winner tested positive during an out-of-competition control carried out by the ministry of the Flemish Community, on May 26, three days before the start of the Tour of Belgium in which he competed. 

Police carried out searches but found nothing to incriminate the cyclist.

"On Monday afternoon searches were carried out and lead to a negative result. Tom Boonen was not arrested but he was questioned," a judicial spokesman added.

The affair is now part of a judicial investigation as the use of cocaine is illegal in Belgium, but the Flemish Community, in charge of doping controls in the north of the country will not be taking any action against Boonen, explained Tieneke Sonck, a spokesman for the Regional Sports Minster told AFP.

"A suspension is foreseen when controls took place during competition but it's not the case in this affair," said Sonck.

And the International Cycling Union (UCI) confirmed that Boonen would not be facing any sanctions under their rules.

"The UCI will not be requesting that a disciplinary procedure be opened," a UCI spokesman told AFP. "We have not been informed of this result but if the information is confirmed as it is an out-of-competition control UCI rules like those of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) do not have any sanctions for cocaine."

But organisers of the Tour of Switzerland which starts on Saturday moved immediately to bar Boonen from competing in their race.

"Race director Armin Meier has refused Boonen," Tour of Switzerland spokesman Kurt Henauer told AFP. He said that the rest of the Quick Step team would be starting the race as planned at Langnau on Saturday.

The story first broke on Tuesday morning in the Het Laatste Nieuws daily with the newspaper stating that police were to search the home of Boonen's parents at Postel and also the home of his girlfriend Lore at Meerhout.

There was no immediate reaction or statement from Boonen's Quick Step team. A press conference with Boonen and team officials at the Quick Step headquarters in Belgium is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. 

The 27-year-old Belgian sprinter was caught up in a drug-taking scandal in December when cyclo-cross champion Tom Vannoppen said after he had tested positive for cocaine that Boonen had provided him with the drugs.

According to reports, Boonen, a contender for the top sprinter's green jersey in this summer's Tour de France, is currently in the process of negotiating a transfer to French team Bouygues Telecom.

© AFP 2008

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