The tangled tale of Torpedo Tom Boonen has taken a dramatic twist with the news that Tour de France organisers WILL allow him to compete this year after all.
The Belgian star had been barred for a positive test for cocaine in April – his third such misdemeanour in two years – and was ruled out of last year’s Tour for the same reason.
This year, however, he resolved to appeal the decision and it looks like his persistence has paid off. His team, Quick Step, got behind him and threatened to sue Tour organisers if he couldn’t race.
Additionally, Boonen appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and after consulting the highest sports authority in France, the French Olympic Committee, the organisers' decision to ban him was overturned.
Tour organisers confirmed the eleventh-hour volte-face, saying: “The Tour's management believes that, considering the great champion that Tom is, he will relish the opportunity that has been given to him and he will have an exemplary attitude during the event."
Significantly, perhaps, the UCI chose not to take any action against Boonen because the test was carried out during a resting period between races.
Cocaine, although obviously illegal, is not considered a performance-enhancing drug and Boonen's tests were not carried out by the sporting authorities.
However, the slight possibility of criminal charges for the latest cocaine-related episode still hangs over Boonen’s head as he enters the race tomorrow, elbowing out Allan Davis, the Australian sprinter whose inclusion this year depended on the Boonen decision.
Boonen won the Tour de France's green jersey for the points competition the last time he competed, in 2007. He also has six stage wins from the race.