Tom Boonen will face no criminal charges for cocaine abuse

Being deprived of racing was punishment enough

A Belgian court has ruled that one of the country's biggest cycling stars, Tom Boonen, will not face criminal charges relating to a positive test for cocaine.

Boonen, a former world champion and winner of Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, tested positive for the recreational drug in an out-of-competition test in May 2008.

The 28-year-old escaped a sports sanction because the test was not held under the auspices of a sport body, however his team, Quick Step, were forced to pull him off their Tour de France squad after race organisers expressed grave concerns.

Public prosecutors told Boonen at the end of 2008 he risked between three months and five years in prison and a fine of between 1,000 and 100,000 euros.

But on Tuesday a tribunal in Turnhout in the north of the country accepted Boonen's lawyers' pleas to drop all criminal charges in return for him accepting he had been guilty in the affair.

A tribunal spokesman said the decision to clear him was reached in part because of "Boonen's role as a model for amateur sport and for the youth in particular."

It added that Boonen being deprived of racing the Tour de France and the Tour of Switzerland last year had been punishment enough for the 2005 world champion.

"That in itself acted as a sanction. It has therefore been decided not to proceed with further punishment," added the spokesman.

After the revelations last summer Boonen accepted his mistake and offered a public apology to his team and his supporters.

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