Mechanical doping: Van den Driessche’s six-year ban ‘a major victory’ for cycling

Brian Cookson hopes Belgian's heavy ban and fine will reassure fans, riders and teams of UCI's effort to eradicate 'technological fraud'

UCI president Brian Cookson has called Femke van den Driessche’s six-year ban for ‘technological fraud’ a “major victory” for cycling.

Belgian under-23 cyclo-cross champion Van den Driessche, 19, was found to have an electric motor concealed in one of her bikes during checks at the women’s under-23 race World Cyclo-Cross Championships in January.

Van den Driessche claimed the bike belonged to a friend, but opted not to fight the charge claiming it would be too expensive and that ‘acquittal is impossible, that bike was in my pit zone’ as she announced her decision to quit cycling.

In her absence, the UCI found her guilty of technological fraud, issuing a backdated six-year suspension to run from October 11, 2015 through to October 10, 2021.

Her results, notably becoming under-23 European champion and under-23 Belgian champion, have been stripped, and prize money must be returned alongside a CHF 20,000 fine and the cost of proceedings, to be determined.

“This case is a major victory for the UCI and all those fans, riders and teams who want to be assured that we will keep this form of cheating out of our sport,” said Cookson.

“We have invested considerable resources in developing this new and highly effective scanning technology and also in strengthening the sanctions applicable to anyone found cheating in this way.”

Van den Driessche’s bike was scanned using the new magnetic resonance testing deployed by the UCI this year, and the Belgian is the first rider to be banned for mechanical doping.

The motor was a Vivax, which was concealed along with a battery in the seattube and controlled by a Bluetooth switch installed underneath the handlebar tape.

The UCI statement announcing the verdict explained: “[More than] 100 bikes were scanned at the event and this new method of testing has proven in trials to be extremely effective in locating hidden motors or other forms of technological fraud as it quickly detects motors, magnetic fields and solid objects concealed in a frame or components.

“The UCI has tested bikes at many races in different disciplines this year (for example 274 at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in London, 216 at the Tour of Flanders, 232 at Paris-Roubaix, 173 at the Under 23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège).

“It will continue to test heavily in all disciplines throughout the year.”

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