Formal punishments avoided in what Quick Step views as personal issue
Belgian Tom Boonen will not be sanctioned by his team for his positive cocaine test, it was announced Wednesday morning at a press conference in Wielsbeke, Belgium. The 27 year-old Quick Step rider apologised for his actions and said that he would take a short break from competition. The team continued to show its support for the sprinter, as did the sponsor, which prolonged its contract.
Boonen, winner of this year's Paris-Roubaix, did not address the issue of whether he had used cocaine, but read a written statement, which said, "Lately, my name has appeared several times in the news in a negative manner. I realise that with this I have hurt my family, my friends, my team and my fans. I wish to apologise for that. But I am not perfect. I will accept the consequences. You will understand that in spite of everything that has been written, rightfully or wrongly, I am not here to defend my conduct."
The 2005 World Champion tested positive for cocaine in an out-of-competition doping control three days before the Tour of Belgium last month. He does not face any sporting sanctions by the International Cycling Union (UCI) nor his national federation.
"I will take it easy the coming days and get control of my emotions. Fortunately, I know that I can still count on a lot of support. I know that I can count on the confidence of my team, for which I am very grateful. I also hope for the support of my fans. I assure them that I will stand on my own two feet and that they can count on my unconditional commitment."
He indicated that he would take a short break from racing, but did not state how long that might be, and did not make himself available to answer questions.
"Nobody is perfect," said Team Manager Patrick Lefevere. "We will keep a close eye on Tom but he will certainly remain with the team." He then announced that Quick Step had prolonged its sponsoring contract for an additional three years. "The sponsors continue to have confidence in the team and in Boonen," he added.
Belgian Lefevere was not clear as to how Boonen's racing calendar would be affected, saying that would be settled in the next few days. He gave Boonen the option of not racing or of racing as planned and made no mention of any possible sanction by the team.
The Tour de Suisse announced yesterday that the sprinter was to be excluded from the race, but the manager indicated that he did not believe the race had the right to refuse him a start. "We could easily overturn the decision to impose a prohibition on his start at the Court of Arbitration for Sport [CAS - ed.], but it is better that he keep a low profile right now." (SW)