Heusden-Zolder, Belgium, Jan 31, 2016 (AFP) – A concealed motor was found
on a bike being used by Belgian cyclist Femke Van den Driessche at the world
cyclo-cross championships, the head of the International Cycling Union (UCI)
said on Sunday, confirming the first such case at a top-level competition.
“It’s absolutely clear that there was technological fraud. There was a
concealed motor. I don’t think there are any secrets about that,” UCI
president Brian Cookson told a news conference.
The bike was seized on Saturday after Van den Driessche, one of the race
favourites, was forced to withdraw from the women’s under-23 race because of a
Van den Driessche, 19, denied that she had on purpose used a bike with a
concealed motor, saying that it was identical to her own but belonged to a
friend and that a team mechanic had given it to her by mistake before the race.
“It wasn’t my bike, it was that of a friend and was identical to mine,” a
tearful Van den Driessche told Belgian TV channel Sporza.
“This friend went around the course Saturday before dropping off the bike
in the truck. A mechanic, thinking it was my bike, cleaned it and prepared it
for my race,” she added, insisting that she was “totally unaware” it was
fitted with a hidden motor.
“I feel really terrible. I’m aware I have a big problem. (But) I have no
fears of an inquiry into this. I have done nothing wrong,” she said.
If found guilty of cheating the rider faces disqualification, a six-month
suspension and a fine of up to 200,000 Swiss francs (180,000 euros, $195,000).
“We’ve heard some stories for a long time now about the possibility of
this. We have been alive to a potential way that people might cheat and we
have been testing a number of bikes and a number of events for several
months,” Cookson said.
“I am committed and the UCI is committed to protecting the riders who do
not want to cheat in whatever form and to make sure that the right riders win
“We have been looking at different methods of testing this kind of
technology and we tested a number of bikes yesterday and one was found.
“We will keep testing both at this event and subsequent events. Whether
this means that there is widespread use of this form of cheating remains to be
Cookson said that the matter would next go before the UCI’s disciplinary
Etixx team manager Patrick Lefevere called for a “lifetime suspension for
the cheat”, while Belgian national team coach Rudy De Bie was outraged by the
“I never thought that such schemes were possible. It’s a scandal that
Femke’s entourage have deceived the Belgian federation,” he said.
The news is a fresh blow to a sport still recovering from the Lance
Armstrong doping scandal after the disgraced American cyclist admitted to
cheating throughout his career in 2013 following years of denials and ruthless
attacks on his accusers.
However, it isn’t the first time eyebrows have been raised over suspicions
of “mechanical doping” – the term used for bikes found to have a hidden motor
inside the wheels or frame that serves as an illegal aid to the rider.
Last year’s Tour de France champion Chris Froome faced accusations of using
a motorised bicycle, while Fabian Cancellara’s 2010 victory in the Tour of
Flanders also stirred a debate.
He denied the accusations before, a week later, racing off into the
distance to win Paris-Roubaix even more impressively.
Cyclo-cross races are held on technical and hilly 2.5 to 3.5-kilometre
circuits and approximately last one hour.
Riders complete several laps of the course and can sometimes be forced to
dismount to climb steep slopes and bypass obstacles. The event is most popular
in traditional road cycling countries such as Belgium, France and the