Embattled cycling star Tom Boonen could face a six-month ban from the sport after his second positive test for cocaine, according to cycling's world ruling body.
Boonen, who recently claimed a third victory in the prestigious Paris-Roubaix one-day classic, tested positive for cocaine in April - less than a year after he tested positive for the drug for the first time in May 2008..
It was believed the 2005 world champion would 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 - set to miss the Tour de France for the second year in a row, and facing criminal charges in Belgium - the International Cycling Union (UCI) said Tuesday Boonen had brought the sport into disrepute.
A statement from cycling's world ruling body said: "Following the control conducted by the Flemish authorities on the Belgian rider Tom Boonen, which revealed the use of cocaine, the UCI President Pat McQuaid has decided to refer the matter to the UCI Disciplinary Commission.
"The behaviour of Tom Boonen, even though it does not constitute a violation of the anti-doping rules, can be considered unacceptable (Art. 1.2.079) and liable to harm the image, reputation or interests of cycling or the UCI (Art. 12.1.005).
"This infringement is punishable by a suspension of 1-6 months."
The organisers of the Tour de France confirmed earlier Tuesday that Quick Step rider Boonen would not be welcome in this year's race.
"It's obviously impossible for Tom Boonen to start the Tour," event director Christian Prudhomme told AFP. "The most important thing for him, as it was said, particularly by his team, is to look after himself and to think about his future as a person, rather than thinking about sport," Prudhomme added.
He was forced to miss last year's Tour de France as a consequence of the first test.
The 28-year-old three-time Paris-Roubaix winner has been suspended indefinitely by his Quick Step team.
© AFP 2009