Tom Boonen will not be at the start of the Tour de France in Brest on July 5, after ASO, the company that organises the race, decided to exclude him following his positive test for cocaine.

The Belgian, who rides for Quick Step, tested positive for cocaine in an out-of-competition test conducted by the Flemish Government in May, three days before the Tour of Belgium.

Although cocaine is not a banned substance if detected in an out-of-competition test, the controversy has proved too much for the Tour’s organisers, who want a clean, drug-free race after two successive summers of scandal.

Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour de France, said: “For us, Tom Boonen cannot be at the start of the Tour now this information has been confirmed.

“Tom Boonen is a great champion, but a great champion is obliged to act in an exemplary manner. The integrity of the Tour and the teams participating in the Tour could be damaged.”

Earlier today Boonen held a press conference to apologise for his actions. He will not face sporting sanctions for taking cocaine from either the UCI or the Flemish authorities.

The Quick Step team has reacted to the decision this evening.

A statement read: “In the last 24 hours there have been several conversations with the representatives of ASO. The team is sorry not to have been able to meet with these representatives [face to face] before the decision was taken, considering that the result of the test undergone by Boonen won’t have any consequence on a professional and sporting level.”

Quick Step looks set to stick by Boonen and help him.

But ASO is anxious to avoid any further scandal. In 2006, the Operacion Puerto investigation broke open on the eve of the race and the eventual winner, Floyd Landis, tested positive for testosterone and was stripped of his title. In 2007 Michael Rasmussen was forced to leave the race while wearing the yellow jersey because it emerged he’d lied about his whereabouts, possibly to evade a visit from the out-of-competition dope testers, in the month before the Tour started.

Last year Boonen won two stages and the green jersey.

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