Belgian road rider Tom Boonen has been given a chance to compete in next month's Tour de France despite a recent, second positive test for cocaine.
Quick Step star Boonen, the winner of major one-day classics and Tour de France stages, sparked controversy last month when it was revealed he had tested positive for cocaine for the second time in a year.
It led to immediate calls for him to be banned from this year's showcase event, and the sport's ruling body the UCI (International Cycling Union) is set to launch disciplinary proceedings against Boonen for bringing the sport into disrepute.
The UCI said today that it would not be able to complete such a disciplinary process before the July 4-26 Tour, meaning that Boonen, "according to the regulations" was free to race in the Tour.
The Belgian star is currently racing the Dauphine Libere in
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme was shocked to hear the UCI's stance and said race officials will now meet to decide Boonen's fate for the race.
"We've just learned like everyone else that Boonen is free to race but we will need two or three days to decide whether he will be invited on the Tour," said Prudhomme.
UCI chief Pat McQuaid said earlier Boonen will eventually face some kind of sanction for his actions, which, because they occurred out of competition, means he cannnot face a traditional drugs ban.
"I still stand by my request for him to be sanctioned, but there's a long process that has to be followed and that takes time," McQuaid said at a conference aimed at launching the UCI's anti-doping plan at next month's race.
"That process won't take place before the end of June. Even if it did, he has a right of appeal and from that point of view we cannot intervene in that process.
"Boonen can race, until such times as disciplinary measures decide otherwise."
Antonio Colom suspended
Spanish cyclist Antonio Colom has been provisionally suspended after testing positive for the banned substance EPO, the International Cycling Union (UCI) has revealed.
Colom had been scheduled to race for the Katusha team in the Tour de France, which begins on July 4.
The 31-year-old finished fifth in Paris-Nice in March after winning the race's final stage.
Colom has been provisionally suspended ahead of a hearing with the Spanish cycling federation.
The positive test, carried out by a laboratory in
UCI revealed that Colom had been tested due to information gleaned from his biological passport.
"This abnormal result is the direct result of a targeted test based on information taken from his blood profile and knowledge of his competition schedule," UCI said in a statement.
Colom is the second Katusha rider to test positive for EPO in less than a month-and-a-half, following
© AFP 2009