Today’s hastily arranged Quick Step press conference saw Tom Boonen apologise to his friends and family for the scandal surrounding his cocaine positive, but he refused to refer to it directly. The conference also left a large question mark hanging over Boonen’s participation in this year’s Tour de France.
Flanked by Quick Step team manager Patrick Lefevre, Boonen said; ?I am not going to make a specific defense of my case today, but I have caused pain to my family, friends and team and I apologise for that,?
Boonen tested positive for cocaine on May 26th, three days before the start of the Tour of Belgium.
?The news about me recently has not been good. I am not perfect and will accept the consequences. I hope my fans will continue to support me. They can count on me in the future.?
Boonen has said that he will now take some time away from bike racing to decide what he will do, leaving his fans wondering whether or not he will be on the Tour de France start line on July 5th. The organisers of next week’s Tour of Switzerland have already said he wouldn?t be welcome to take part.
The organisers of the Tour have yet to make a statement, but asked if Boonen would be defending his green jersey this July, Lefevre said this was something to be ?thought about? during the next few days while the media furore died down.
?The media have an attention span of around 48 hours, I believe, and the Tour starts on July 5th,” Lefevre said. “I?ve spoken to [Tour boss] Christian Prudhomme and we?ve agreed we?ll talk again.?
Clearly determined to put on a show of strength, the Quick Step boss added that the team would continue to be sponsored by Quick Step for another four years, and that all the sponsors had confirmed that they would continue to back the squad.
Lefevre added that Boonen would not be answering questions at the press conference, because neither he nor Boonen had yet received any official documents about his positive test for cocaine.
But he was decidedly bullish about Boonen?s non-start in the Tour of Switzerland, saying ?If we went to CAS [the Court for Sports Arbitration] about this, we?d win. They can?t just take away Tom?s right to race. But we think it?s better things calm down a bit.”
News of Boonen testing positive for cocaine in an out of competition (non UCI) test came just days after he lost his driving licence for two weeks after being caught speeding while over Belgium’s drink driving limit.
The UCI this week confirmed to Cycling Weekly that due to the timing of the test, they were not likely to sanction Boonen, although they were monitoring the situation carefully.