THE UCI announced its decision on the 'motorised doping' case of Femke Van den Driessche today (April 26th) giving the Belgian a six-year ban from the sport and stripping her of all results after October 11th, 2015. One of Van den Driessche's bikes at the World Championships in January was found to contain an electric motor.
Van den Driessche who did not mount any defence or attend the UCI hearing in Switzerland had already announced her retirement from cyclocross, but still faces a (£14,000) fine and has been ordered to return prize money. The UCI handed out sanctions to the rider only and no charges were brought against her team or entourage.
Van den Driessche is stripped of the European and Belgian Under-23 titles although it's not yet clear whether Maud Kaptheijns and Laura Verdonschot, respectively, will be awarded the champion's jerseys after finishing second to the Belgian.
According to the UCI "the motor was a Vivax which was concealed along with a battery in the seat-tube. It was controlled by a Bluetooth switch installed underneath the handlebar tape."
In March Van den Driessche announced she would quit cyclocross and was immediately back in the Belgian media after finishing third in a 10km running race. Her mother had encouraged her to do the race, but she told the media, "it does not mean that I am going to start a running career."
Van den Driessche also threatened to race in a non-UCI, industry 'electric mountain bike race' at the Sea Otter Classic trade show in America but this bizarre 'stunt' never happened.
Whilst UCI president Brian Cookson has hailed the decision "a major victory for the UCI", Van den Driessche will still only be twenty-five-years-old when her ban ends in October, 2021 and young enough to race again if she decided to.
Here's the UCI statement in full:
The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) today announces that its Disciplinary Commission has rendered its decision in the case of Belgian rider Femke Van den Driessche.
The UCI Disciplinary Commission issued the following decision:
- Ms Femke Van den Driessche is found to have committed a violation of art. 1.3.010 in combination with art. 12.013bis (Technological fraud) of the UCI Regulations;
- Ms Femke Van den Driessche is suspended for a period of 6 years starting from and including October 11, 2015 and ending on October 10, 2021;
- As a consequence of her suspension, all competitive results achieved by Ms Femke Van den Driessche from and inclusive October 11, 2015, shall be disqualified. Her name and results shall be removed from the concerned ranking lists and Ms Femke Van den Driessche shall no longer hold any corresponding title (notably Under 23 European Champion title and Under 23 Belgian Champion title);
- Ms Femke Van den Driessche is ordered to return the medals and the prize-monies she received in connection with the disqualified competitions to the respective organisers;
- Ms Femke Van den Driessche is ordered to pay to the UCI a fine in the amount of CHF 20,000;
- Ms Femke Van den Driessche shall pay the costs of the proceedings in an amount which will be determined in the full reasoned decision.
This decision follows the discovery of a concealed electric motor in one of the rider's bikes during checks at the Women Under 23 race of the UCI Cyclocross World Championships in January 2016. The bike concerned was scanned using the new magnetic resonance testing deployed this year by the UCI. This detected the motor whilst the bike was in the rider's pit area. The motor was a Vivax which was concealed along with a battery in the seat-tube. It was controlled by a Bluetooth switch installed underneath the handlebar tape.
Over 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 U23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège). It will continue to test heavily in all disciplines throughout the year.
UCI President Brian Cookson said: "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. 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."