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Update on the Boonen Case

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Tom Boonen and Tour de France

A court in Nanterre will hear the case between Tom Boonen and the Tour de France tomorrow. According to Boonen's lawyers, they will produce a document in which the ASO agreed to accept the UCI's position on Boonen's participation in this year's Tour de France. In short, they claim the ASO agreed to allow Boonen to ride. The document, a letter from the UCI to Patrick Lefevre, reportedly confirms the ASO's position to allow Boonen's participation.

Then, as we know, the ASO announced that they would not welcome the QuickStep sprinter on the grounds that his presence would "damage" the image of the race. The ASO used this same argument to exclude the Fuji-Servetto team, an argument that the sports arbitration court in Lausanne chose to uphold. L'Équipe confirms that the ASO's decision to exclude Boonen came as a consequence of the intervention of the French Sports Minister, Bernard Laporte. During the Critérium Dauphiné Libéré, Laporte announced that Boonen was not welcome at the Tour, nevermind that Boonen was then racing in France at the Dauphiné. Reportedly, Laporte had no idea the Belgian sprinter was riding the French race at the time.

Boonen's lawyers claim that the existence of the document confirming the ASO's initial willingness to allow Boonen to ride makes the organization's current position untenable. If they were willing to welcome him to this year's race, how could he now be viewed as "damaging to the race image?" So, the lawyers' argument goes, at least. It is unclear just yet whether they will win their case, of course. But if the document exists and it matches their claims, the Boonen team may have a powerful weapon to overturn his exclusion from the July party.

One more twist to the story. Bernard Laporte, the former coach of the French national rugby team, left his post as Minister of Sport today. Laporte has held the position since 2007, after supporting Sarkozy's presidential campaign. Rama Yade, a former Secretary for Human Rights in the French Foreign Ministry, has taken his place. The move is interpreted by some as a demontion for Yade, after falling out of favor with Sarkozy over her unwillingness to stand for elections to the European Union parliament.

— Source, L'Équipe.fr.