Boonen allowed to race Tour de France

MONACO (Reuters) - Former world champion Tom Boonen has been allowed to take part in this year’s Tour de France by a French arbitration court, race organisers said on Friday.

Tom Boonen of Belgium cycles during the fourth individual time trial stage of the Dauphine Libere cycling race in Valence June 10, 2009. REUTERS/Robert Pratta

“After the decision announced on the 3rd of July by the Sport Arbitration Chamber, Tom Boonen of the Quick Step team will be at the start of the 2009 Tour de France,” organisers said in a statement.

“ASO takes this decision into account. The management of the Tour de France believes that, considering the great champion that Tom Boonen is, he will relish the opportunity that has been given to him and that he will have an exemplary attitude during the event,” they added.

Tour organisers ASO (Amaury Sport Organisation) had banned Boonen from the race, which starts on Saturday, after the Belgian failed an out-of-competition test for cocaine in April.

Boonen launched a court case against ASO but earlier this week a judge said she could not rule on the matter, sending it before the French sport arbitration court.

“It’s been three months of stress,” Boonen told a news conference at his team hotel in Monte Carlo.

“It will now be hard to focus on the race. But I am not seeking revenge. Revenge is something stupid. When you want to win, you win for yourself.”

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Briton Mark Cavendish, who finds himself with another rival for the best sprinter’s green jersey, welcomed Boonen’s entry into the three-week race.

“It changes many things, in a good way. Our team will have less pressure in the flat stages,” Cavendish said.

Boonen’s positive for cocaine in April was the 28-year-old’s second offence in 12 months after he failed a test for the same substance last year.

The 2005 world champion missed last year’s Tour following his first positive test.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) said last month they would not open disciplinary proceedings against Boonen after they had threatened him with a six-month ban for spoiling the sport’s image.

Failing an out-of-competition check for cocaine is not technically considered a positive doping test since the use of the substance is not banned between races.

Boonen, who won the Paris-Roubaix classic race for the third time in April, was banned by his Quick Step team on May 9 after it was announced he had failed the test and returned to racing last month.

(Additional reporting by Gilles Le Roc’h)

Editing by Alison Wildey