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Team suspends Boonen over failed cocaine test

FORMER world champion Tom Boonen of Belgium failed an out-of-competition test for cocaine and has been suspended from all activities by Quick Step, the cycling team said yesterday.

Boonen, who won the Paris-Roubaix classic for the third time last month and is among the top one-day race riders in the world, previously failed a test for cocaine last year.

"The test, which was positive for cocaine, was carried out by the Flemish authorities," team spokesman Alessandro Tegner said. "It was about two weeks ago."

"He is suspended from all activities by the team," Tegner said yesterday.

In a statement, Quick Step added: "The staff are working closely with team sponsors and will continue to update the situation during the weekend evaluating eventual further action."

Jan Poels, a public prosecutor in the northeast Belgian town of Turnhout, said a search had been carried out at Boonen's home at the end of April in connection with a drugs investigation. He declined to say whether drugs were found or whether the investigation concerned any particular substance.

Last year, Boonen was withdrawn from Quick Step's Tour de France line-up following his positive test for cocaine.

He apologized and team manager Patrick Lefevere said Quick Step maintained its confidence in him because the matter was considered a private problem.

Last February, a Belgian court found Boonen guilty of cocaine use but for some reason decided not to hand down criminal sanctions.

Boonen, who became world champion in 2005, could now face possible criminal charges carrying a jail sentence of between three months and five years.

The 28-year-old Belgian was supposed to ride in the Tour of Catalunya at the end of the month before taking part in the Dauphine Libere in June in order to prepare for the Tour de France.


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