Tom Boonen has been granted an eleventh hour reprieve to compete in the Tour de France which starts on Saturday, local television in Monaco has reported.
Quick Step’s former world road race champion had been barred from the Tour by organisers following a positive test for cocaine in April but was cleared to race in a ruling handed down by the French Olympic Committee today.
It was his second such test in a year. Boonen also missed the Tour in 2008 because he tested positive for the drug in May last year.
A positive test for cocaine on April 25 caused a huge uproar in Belgium, where 2005 world champion and one-day race specialist Boonen has rock star status.
It left him facing criminal charges, the possible end of his remarkable career – not to mention his reputation suffering a huge blow.
Despite the furore, Quick Step eventually rallied behind their star rider and even threatened to sue Tour organisers if they did not allow him to race.
Cocaine, although illegal, is not considered a performance-enhancing drug and Boonen’s tests were not carried out by the sporting authorities.
Boonen appealed to the arbitration body of the highest sports authority in France, the French Olympic Committee, who on Friday overturned the organisers’ decision to ban him.
“We can confirm the ruling by the French Olympic Committee, and that Tom Boonen will start the Tour de France on Saturday,” a team spokesman told AFP.
Tour de France organisers have yet to react to the news.
It means there will be no place on the Tour for Allan Davis, the Australian sprinter whose inclusion this year depended on the Boonen decision.
Boonen won the Tour de France’s green jersey for the points competition the last time he competed here, in 2007. He also has six stage wins from the race.
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© AFP 2009