ASO, Quick Step yields nothing for Boonen First Edition Cycling News, June 17, 2008
Quick Step team manager Patrick Lefevere and sponsor CEO Frans De Cock met with Tour de France organisers Monday to discuss the possibility of Tom Boonen being allowed to ride the Tour. Team and sponsor Quick Step did their best to convince the Tour de France to accept Tom Boonen, but to no avail.
Tour boss Christian Prudhomme acknowledge that Boonen's positive test for cocaine was not a sporting violation, "but the Boonen case could damage the integrity of the Tour and of the participating teams." The Tour had earlier announced that the Belgian sprinter would not be welcome at the Tour.
"They didn't say yes and they didn't say no," Lefevere reported. "We were well received and had a good discussion.
"The important thing is that they listed to use," he added. "We told them how it works in Flanders. But they had their arguments, too. We have no deadline for a decision."
At his press conference last week, Boonen said that he would take a short break from racing. Short was the right description, since he is starting in the Ster Elektrotoer today. However, the team issued a press release Monday evening, saying, that "in light of the events involving Tom Boonen over the past few days, the Quick Step team informs that the rider will not be speaking to the press during the Ster Elektrotoer race...in order to avoid any speculation and misunderstandings."
Boonen proclaims innocence, says he was trapped Latest Cycling News, June 16, 2008
Tom Boonen claims that the cocaine for which he tested positive must have been put into a drink he had at a bar. Meanwhile, the Quick Step sprinter was questioned again Saturday morning by the Belgian federal judicial police.
In his original questioning by the police, according to the Gazet van Antwerpen, Boonen proclaimed his innocence and claimed that someone must have slipped something into his drink, in an attempt to trap him. However, his press conference the next day made investigators suspicious, when he apologised for his actions. Since this did not seem to match the story that the sprinter had previously told them, he was subsequently invited by the investigating judge for another session of questioning.
The 27 year-old met with the police Saturday morning in Turnhout. According to the Gazet van Antwerpen, he repeated his statement that had been tricked and gave more details. He said that he and his girlfriend Lore were at the bar "Que Pasa" in his hometown of Mol, where they had drinks outside on the terrace. Shortly thereafter, he felt ill and left the bar to go home.
He further told the police that the statement he read at his press conference had been written by his lawyer.
At his press conference last week, Boonen had said that he would take a short break from racing. He had been scheduled to ride the Tour de Suisse, which started Saturday, but was excluded by the race organisers. Now, however, he is scheduled on Tuesday to start the Ster Elektrotoer, which had said that he was welcome.
In further news, team manager Patrick Lefevere and sponsor Quick Step CEO Frans De Cock are meeting today with the Amaury Sports Organisation, which manages the Tour de France and has also excluded Boonen from its race. De Cock has said that the sponsor wants Boonen to appear in the race for financial reasons.(SW)
Quick Step CEO pushing for Boonen in Tour de France
Team sponsor Quick Step has explained why it is so anxious for Tom Boonen to ride the Tour de France: it has already prepared a big publicity campaign for its laminate flooring products to run in France during the Tour with Boonen in the lead role. The company has already purchased the advertising time on French television.
Quick Step CEO Frans De Cock told the Belga press agency that he had asked Boonen privately after Wednesday's press conference whether he still wanted to ride the Tour. "He said explicitly, 'yes, I want to'. So I will do everything I can to make that happen." De Cock will meet with Tour organisers this week to discuss the matter.
"For a cycling sponsor, the Tour means half of the return for the year's investment. I need Tom Boonen. I think that Quick Step has contributed a lot to the sport."
Lefevere and Boonen react to Tour exclusion Latest Cycling News, June 12, 2008
Patrick Lefevere of Team Quick Step has acknowledged, but not necessarily accepted, ASO's decision to ban Tom Boonen from the Tour de France. "Of course, we regret this decision, especially since Tom didn't test positive in a sporting case. But we take note of it," he told HLN.
"I do not think that we will go with the team to the CAS [Court of Arbitration for Sport - ed.] but we should discuss that with our sponsors," he noted, in an indication that the team may try to force the Tour de France organiser to accept Boonen's participation. "I think it is especially up to the athlete and his representatives to take any possible steps."
Boonen's attorney, Luc Deleu told Radio 2 Antwerp that he did not think his client would take that step. "It doesn't seem suitable to me to go over the head of the race organisers to go to the CAS or other agencies.
"It is not a question of being frightened of not being invited to other competitions," he explained, but simply that "Tom has decided to accept the consequences of his actions."
Boonen excluded from the Tour de France First Edition Cycling News, June 12, 2008
Tom Boonen knew that his participation to the 2008 Tour de France was in doubt after the news of his positive test for cocaine broke. He and his Quick Step team hoped some time after the news would enable Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) to give Boonen consideration and allow him to participate in the Tour de France, but their approach didn't work.
ASO would have liked the Belgian team to decide to leave Boonen at home in July. However, the team's different decision forced the organization to ban the winner of Paris-Roubaix from the July Grand Tour. "We had to wait for their press conference," Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme explained. Decision makers in Paris and the Belgian rider and his team managers communicated by phone. "We wanted to hear Tom Boonen, Patrick Lefevere and Wilfried Peeters. We have told them it was not possible for Tom to ride the Tour de France this year."
However, ASO is not considering last year's green jersey winner as a doping cheat. "We are not confronted with a doping case," Prudhomme said about ASO's outlook. "He didn't take forbidden substances in order to win races. It's a private affair. But Boonen is a great and emblematic champion. He has to behave in an irreproachable way."
In a statement issued Wednesday, the Quick Step team said, "The team is sorry to have not been able to meet the representatives of ASO before the decision was taken, considering that the result of the test undergone by Boonen won't have any consequence on a professional and sporting level."
Obviously, the Belgian camp would have liked to negotiate with ASO, but that option was out of question for the French organization. "Lefevere told us July 5th [the date of the start of the Tour de France in Brest - ed.] was still far away but with three weeks to go, the link is obvious. We have to get rid of the permanent suspicion. In reference to the contract signed between us and the participating teams, we have to preserve the image and the integrity of the Tour de France and the riders who will be lined up," Prudhomme said.
"Boonen was humble in the way he said he went off track," the Tour de France director said. "This incident reflects what happens in our society. Similar problems have affected so many champions from different sports." Prudhomme indicated he has no intention of banning Boonen beyond the 2008 Tour de France. "Anybody can make mistakes," he said.