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Boonen gets nod to compete in Tour

FORMER world champion Tom Boonen has been allowed to take part in this year's Tour de France by a French arbitration court, his Quick Step team said yesterday.

"We just got the news that Tom Boonen has the right to race, the team lawyer just announced it to us," Quick Step spokesman Alessandro Tegner said.

Tour organizers had banned Boonen from the race after the Belgian failed an out-of-competition test for cocaine in April. The race starts on Saturday in Monaco.

Briton Mark Cavendish, who finds himself with a new 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, who won world championships in 2005, failed an out-of-competition test for cocaine in April. It was the 28-year-old's second offence in 12 months after he tested positive for the same substance last year. He missed last year's Tour following his first failed test for cocaine.

Sport's image

The International Cycling Union said last month that it would not open disciplinary proceedings against Boonen after it 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 test.

Also, Kazakh rider Alexandre Vinokourov, whose doping suspension will end on July 24, is planning to return to competition with his former team Astana.

Vinokourov, who was given a two-year ban for blood doping during the 2007 Tour de France, said he was negotiating his return with team manager, Johan Bruyneel.

"I'm going to relaunch my professional career on July 24," the 35-year-old rider said. "I can't imagine myself riding with another team than Astana. The Kazakhstan federation wants me to ride again in this team, I'm currently negotiating with Johan Bruyneel and I think we are going to find a deal in the coming week.

"This team was created for me and thanks to my efforts," Vinokourov said. "I have served my suspension and I do not see why I could not return. If Bruyneel does not want me, it will be Bruyneel who will be leaving the team."


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