French sports minister who wanted Boonen out is replaced
The Tour de France organiser ASO (Amaury Sport Organisation) was prepared to allow Belgian sprinter Tom Boonen into the race before changing its mind after a recommendation from the French Secretary of State for Sport Bernard Laporte, Boonen's lawyers argued on Wednesday.
The Quick Step team is fighting an action taken by the ASO to bar Boonen from taking part in the Tour, which begins July 4. The ASO announced last week that Boonen would not be welcome at the race because he tested positive out of competition for cocaine in April.
The UCI declined to take disciplinary action against the rider because the substance is not banned out of competition.
Quick Step's attorney Jean-Louis Dupont brought to light a memo sent from UCI director General Jean-Pierre Strebel to Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevere which stated that the race organiser was prepared go along with the UCI's decision and to allow Boonen to start the race.
According to the Belga press agency, the letter continued to explain that the ASO changed its mind after Laporte expressed his opinion that, in the spirit of the fight against doping, Boonen was not welcome at the race.
Dupont will use the letter as evidence in Thursday's hearing in front of the French Superior Court in Nanterre to support his claim that Boonen should be allowed to race.
"This reversal of ASO is a particularly deplorable violation of the contract between ASO and the Quick Step team," Dupont stated.
Laporte was replaced on Tuesday by Rama Yade as Secretary of State for Sports in the French government.