Quick Step cycling team bosses said Sunday they would not beg Tour de France chiefs to allow Tom Boonen to be included in this year’s race.
Boonen, Belgium’s top cyclist, is facing up to what could be a premature end to his impressive career after testing positive a second time for cocaine.
Boonen, a 28-year-old one-day specialist who was crowned world champion in 2005, tested positive for cocaine two weeks ago – only a fortnight after winning the prestigious Paris-Roubaix one-day classic for the third time.
It was barely a year after he tested positive for the recreational drug for the first time, in May 2008.
That incident did not lead to criminal or sporting sanctions but race organisers, despite Quick Step’s pleas, gave Boonen’s presence the thumbs-down over concerns of negative publicity.
This time, Quick Step company chief Frank De Cock said they will not plead their team leader’s case.
“Last year we went to the Tour de France organisers to plead Tom’s case. This year there is no question of us doing that. We will not embarrass ourselves again,” De Cock told the Sporza television channel.
Boonen, one of the biggest cycling stars of the past decade, was in such demand in Belgium that he fled the country to live in Monaco several years ago. He only recently returned home.
As well as winning notable races like Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, Boonen has also won the Tour de France green jersey, for the sprinters’ points competition, in 2007.
News of his latest positive test led prosecutors on Friday to order a raid on his home.
Boonen has since faced questioning and despite the unlikelihood of a sporting ban – cocaine is not forbidden outside official competition by the sports authorities – he could now face criminal charges. He avoided charges last year only on the condition there would be no repeat of similar incidents inside three years.
Boonen’s lawyer, Luc Deleu, told Sporza Boonen had effectively violated the terms of last year’s ruling, which virtually suspended any kind of sentence.
“The consequences could be disastrous,” Deleu said.
De Cock said Boonen’s future with the team was uncertain, but he admitted it would be hard to see the former world champion end his career on such a note.
“I put all my weight behind Tom last year, and told him I would forgive him, on the condition it did not happen again,” said De Cock. “Now, he’s gone and done it again.”
He added: “He needs help. It would be a real pity for the sport of cycling to lose Boonen like this.”
A tearful Boonen admitted Saturday: “The night before the drug test, I went out. I stayed for a while and I drank. At some stage I must have taken something. Then I had a blackout.
“I think I have a problem. After spending three to four months working, when I go out I probably over-step the mark and I become someone else.
“For 364 days a year, it’s perfect. I try to be an exemplary citizen. But the day that I drink too much, something that I don’t do often, I change. I will now seek help.”
© AFP 2009