Suisse rejects Boonen, Tour to follow? First Edition Cycling News, June 11, 2008
Tom Boonen (Quick Step) will not be allowed to start the Tour de Suisse, race organisers announced Tuesday. The decision follows the Belgian sprinter's positive anti-doping control for cocaine on May 25 and could see the entire team thrown out of the Suisse event, in addition to placing a question mark over Boonen's Tour de France start.
"We want to make a point and emphasise that we will not put up with any rider who behaves that way," Tour director Armin Meier said. "It doesn't matter to us whether it is a world star or any other rider."
The Suisse race organiser also asked the management of the Belgian Quick Step team for its position on Boonen's situation. It requested an answer by noon, Thursday, which is also the deadline for the teams to submit their final line-ups. If the team does not comply with that request, the Tour organisers said that they could decide to exclude the entire team from the race.
Boonen will not be suspended by the UCI for his positive cocaine test. The use of cocaine outside of competition does not carry a sanction and as the test was carried out two days before a race, Boonen has escaped a sanction according to the UCI.
"The UCI will not ask for a disciplinary procedure to be opened," a spokesperson for the UCI explained to Sport Wereld. "The rule for the UCI is the same as that of the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA). There is no sanction for cocaine when talking about an out of competition control."
The deadline for a control outside competition to be handled is one day for an ordinary race and three days before a major Tour such as the Tour, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España.
The Belgian Cycling Federation confirmed that they would also not be sanctioning Boonen for the altercation. "That's what the rules state," said President Laurent De Backer to Sporza.
The Boonen issue puts Tour de France organiser ASO in a similar situation to last year with Michael Rasmussen. In the absence of a ban by an authority it only has its power to threaten the teams and sponsors, but is hopeful the team will take the decision to withdraw Boonen by itself.
Tour delegate director Gilbert Ysern was the one who called Rabobank during last year's Tour de France and convinced the Dutch bank to take its rider out of the race. After hearing the news about Boonen's positive case for cocaine, Ysern said the Tour wouldn't follow the Tour de Suisse's lead.
"We're not going to act like our colleagues from the Tour de Suisse," he said. "We will wait and see which position Boonen and his team will take. We'll see if he admits the facts, if he asks for a counter analysis, or if he steps down for the next few weeks."
Following the news of Boonen's test it's understandable that ASO doesn't want Boonen to defend his green jersey this year. But ASO hopes the Paris-Roubaix winner will be sidelined by his employer, rather than it being forced to take preventive measures.