Femke Van den Driessche interviewed by Sporza after a motor was found in her bike during the U23 Cyclocross World Championships
  • ebbe

    We’ve just learned that the maffia forged a blood sample leading to Pantani to be “caught doping” because they bet against him, but without having any actual facts as to what did actually happen, we’re still adement something “requiring an extraordinary sequence of events to unfold” never ever happens?

    • Adi

      I say this as a Pantani fan-boy, but all the mafia did was ensure that Pantani got caught. All evidence from that period suggests he was actually doping quite extensively, it’s just that he wouldn’t ordinarily have been caught without some outside ‘assistance’. Much as I love what he brought to the sport, he wasn’t exactly an innocent party.

      • ebbe

        Just repeating what’s in the news as an example of “stranger things have happened”. This is not about Pantani anyway, it was just an example. But thanks for derailing my comment Adi ;-)

        • Adi

          Sorry, as you were :-)

      • jules

        no one’s saying Pantani wasn’t doping, but justice administered inequitably is not justice at all. so potential mafia involvement is an important issue – not least as it could happen again in different circumstances. but anyway, that was 1999 and we’re in 2016 now. we’ve left that crazy stuff beh… wait, scratch that.

    • Samaway

      Exactly – such is the logic of poor historical explanation

    • ridein

      How is Pantani’s troubles relevant to the moto-doping discussion?

      • ebbe

        At least take the time to read the conversation between Adi and me before getting your panties in a bunch, would you? ;-)

        • ridein


  • Evan Darling

    I don’t think her defending her actions would have done anything to help her. She basically fessed up (if you look into her past results and decisions you see a trend) she knew of the bike and she knew the rules. If she were 15 it would be different. She is an adult. She knows the rules. She made a decision to move on and she is doing what is best for her. Respect her decision and let it go. If they prosecute her with criminal charges that is a whole different ball game. But this is sport and she can decide for herself as an adult.

  • Luke Harvey-Palmer

    Whilst on the surface this might seem like a good outcome, I concur with some of the issues raised by the author. In general, my biggest concern is the lack of accountability. Given the alleged history of the family, there seems distinct lack of accountability for their actions, and by not seeing this case through, I wonder if it another opportunity lost for this family to stop, think about, and learn from their decisions and actions. For me, this is the biggest crime, as I see it all too often – turn your back, walk away, ignore…because really, I don’t care what others think, I did this, and I am ok with that. Regrettable.

  • Robert Merkel

    It’s difficult to know what the UCI could have realistically offered Van den Driessche as an incentive to talk.

    I think the cycling community would be in complete uproar if the ban, even after she talked fully, was any shorter than the four years that a deliberate drug cheat receives now – and rightly so, except in fairly extreme circumstances (for instance, imagine the decision to ride the dodgy bike was the result of the local underworld don making threats).

    Whether the UCI hands out bans or not, I imagine that the Van den Driessche family is now pretty much persona non grata (or whatever the Flemish translation of that phrase is) in Belgian cycling anyway.

    The real question is who outside the immediate family was responsible for the motor, and if so whether they can be usefully subject to UCI sanction.

    • Michele

      She could deny, deny, deny, deny. Say it was her invisible twin’s bike.
      Then wait a few years and help the relevant ADA organisation catch a bigger fish, and then get just a 6 month ban.

    • Rodrigo Diaz

      Agreed Robert. What could she offer? Throw her family under the bus? It’s pretty much well documented they are her support crew. So it is understandable if she simply decides not to contest the case to avoid damaging her circle.

      I would prefer if there was more disclosure of the whole case- like what type of mechanism is there. Sure, the obvious answer is a Vivax/Gruber. But maybe they are not the only players in this game.

      Maybe the UCI should have established right away “lifetime ban or 4 years for full cooperation” including whatever terms they saw fit such as identifying those that enabled this situation, etc. Provide incentives for cooperation and so. But given her status (and her family’s) it is really hard to call her a scapegoat. Sure, they are making an example of her, but it’s not like she was beyond suspicion.

      And speaking of which – the UCI should still disclose something. They got the bike. Maybe some photos, etc

      • Robert Merkel

        Yes, I reckon a public showing, photos, and a consulting engineer’s report on the bike would be good form from the UCI.

        • Dave

          It shouldn’t be any issue to release the full written case file with just names of non-involved parties redacted – most importantly the whistleblowers who tipped off the UCI at the race.

          After all, by choosing not to attend the disciplinary hearing (they can afford it, I’ve driven further than Brussels-Antwerp to go to a concert and there’s also Easyjet or Ryanair) she is conceding that the case file is correct and authorising the panel to go ahead with the hearing purely on the case file.

          When everyone agrees on the case file being correct, why not release it with the appropriate redactions?

  • Michele

    Perhaps she’s just so jaded with the sport that she wants nothing to do with it.
    I wouldn’t blame her.
    After all, I’m sure there’s a few people she would be throwing under the bus – and not just family and friends – if she were to tell all.
    She can still go out and ride her bike – for fun.

    • Gordon Haywood

      You’ve spotted the obvious twist here Michele. One can never trust a parakeet. Surely they are responsible for the motor, and no doubt manufacture EPO and have, as can clearly be seen, a huge distribution network of parakeets. ;)

      On a serious note Van den Driessche does appear to have taken the fall for the mechanical doping.

    • Dave

      My experience with parakeets is that they are quite honourable birds, and therefore probably responsible for tipping off the UCI about what is going on. Blaming other riders for it will be just the UCI using misinformation to protect their informant’s neck.

      I mean, wouldn’t you be suspicious if you were wandering around the team enclosures at a bike race and there’s a budgie repeating phrases like ‘press this button Femke’ or ‘Rossi will be jealous.’

      You wouldn’t want to teach the phrase ‘who’s a pretty boy now’ if you were involved in road cycling. There’s a massive chance of a certain Trek-Segafredo rider not treating it as a rhetorical question.

    • The Rabbit

      The parakeets were from the first – and less successful – attempt to make the bike ‘fly’ by stuffing them into the seat-tube.

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    • Shane Stokes

      As in, ‘a little bird told me….’? :D

  • Roger That

    Good to see the family keep the UCI rulebook in the house for all to read (see pic).

    • Steve S

      Lol, this comment should have way more upvotes.

  • James Belford

    Is there a difference between Nibali’s motor and Fiemke’s? I think the only difference is Vince was actually caught using it during the race. And one was electric, the other, internal combustion.

    • Neuron1

      He just didn’t get away with it like Porte on stage 2 and Froome on stage 5 of the 2014 TdF when they motor paced back to the peloton. Or Roche at this years Vuelta. Rules are meant to be bent to the point of breaking.

  • eLpISToLERO666

    Would she stand to benefit more ($$$) from doing a tell-all to a media outlet rather than the UCI?

  • Anthony

    There does not seem to be much mention of the pit crew. Surely they knew and should also be in the dock.

    • Dave

      The UCI does not regulate support crew and there’s no licence to revoke. Even the concept of licensing sporting directors of road teams is a fairly recent innovation.

      Hopefully this case will lead to such regulations being introduced, a bit like what Formula 1 did after the Singapore GP ‘crashgate’ incident when they had to accept a humiliating loss at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. They had to rely on Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds voluntarily agreeing to sit out a couple of years for that time, but these days they have the power to do something about it.

  • jules

    I agree that she is the fall girl, but she was likely only going to continue pushing the BS excuse she’s already been told to make. the UCI hearing wouldn’t likely have yielded much of interest – I’d guess.

  • Stephen J Schilling

    I suspect she may have given up the fight because she knew that even if, somehow she could get off with a ‘survivable’ sentence/ban, she would be 1) hard pressed to find any team to sign her & 2) might be exposed as never actually being close to an elite level rider if she could make a comeback.

  • De Mac

    Shane, a scapegoat she may very well be, but she also has the power to tell the TRUTH and name names. That would be an admirable display of contrition. By providing no contest, there are more questions unanswered than those which have been answered – history repeating, perhaps…..

    • Shane Stokes

      De Mac, the complication is that if her family is involved, she’s 19 years of age and probably still living at home. Her father appears to be a pretty strong character, while she is apparently quiet. So, if they are indeed part of the whole thing, that’s a hard situation to be able to speak out.

      • De Mac

        Yep, I understand the dynamic mate, combined with the fact that her father, if involved in any capacity, may very well have ended her career. Only the family unit can resolve that conundrum now.

        • The voice of reason

          Reminiscent of the career of Jelena Dokic and the father’s involvement in sinking that ship…

      • Dave

        I hope that the UCI comes back to her in a few years (perhaps once daddy is in jail for budgie smuggling, and 22 year olds are much more independent than 19 year olds anyway) and offers a deal in exchange for names if this is the case.

        • Kim

          If budgie smuggling was an offence Tony Abbott would be serving several concurrent life terms

      • T Rex

        So by your logic i should not be getting in trouble for not doing my homework as my dog that keeps eating it is a known trouble maker and a strong character

        • 900Aero

          Sort of. By punishing you and ignoring the dog the situation is resolved but there is a degree of unfairness. However, if we leave you to deal with your dog and it has to live with the consequences of your punishment (living off cheap cat-food because you can’t afford high-grade mince steak because you hold a stop-go sign instead of running a merchant bank (due to not finishing school because you were banned over the homework issue)) then yes.
          But its drawing a long bow – and you were kind of proposing the opposite problem.

          Anyway, the case is proceeding so lets see what happens.

          • Dave

            What an epic post. Are you Matt Brammeier?

  • roklando

    The managers at the UCI saw a perfect chance to make an exemplary punishment with little to no cost to them – go after a 19 year old junior woman – and send a message to those further up the food chain (i.e. professional men). I’m not saying she should not be punished if guilty, but the way they stamped down on her stinks from here to Sunday…..


    Maybe they had to revert to mechanical doping because when they had traditional performance enhancing drugs ‘the-parrots-ate-emol”. Sorry.

  • weg

    Shane, the UCI rule also provides for team disqualification and fines. As this occurred at Worlds and she was riding for Belgium, do you know what constitutes ‘team’ under this rule – her personal crew or more uncomfortably the national (cx?) team? Can’t imagine UCI taking on Belgium but I haven’t seen much discussion or a convenient definition either. No doubt the national federations are pretty handy with their iPads by now though …

    • Shane Stokes

      Hey Weg, it’s a little unclear – the worlds is one race where the team rule is pretty ambiguous. The UCI will be issuing a ruling at some point, so we should learn more then…


    She deserves a lifetime ban. Pure and simple. The idea she didn’t know is absurd. She was using it during the race. She’s a total hack.

    • Durian Rider

      But what about the 40 plus people I could name off the top of my head that only got fame today because they doped yet they still work in cycling industry? But a 19 year old girl whom we didnt even know about should get ‘life!’ lol!


      • donncha

        We’re in this situation with dopers precisely because we let it go, bit by bit, for so long. We should not make that mistake again. She’s the first to be caught for having a motor in a bike, so she gets to be the one who’s made an example of.

        She has admitted the bike was in her pit and therefore has admitted the offence. Sure, there may be others who ALSO deserve punishment, but that doesn’t change the fact that SHE STILL deserves punishment.

      • TTTCOTTH

        Apparently personal responsibility is an awful thing to you.

    • dperreno

      Did she actually ride that bike? I haven’t been able to confirm that – only that it was in her pit.

  • Thom Kneeland

    No one has ever explained to me why her brother who was in the middle of serving a ban for EPO was allowed to be in the Belgian Federation area and take part in pre-rides. Someone from the Belgian team staff had to know he was there and acting as a coach and/or advisor to a member of their team. They have some answering to do to the UCI as well I would think.

    • Dave

      There’s no capacity for the UCI to do that under the current regulations.

      As I wrote above, there are a number of UCI regulations which have been shown to be inadequate in this case and should precipitate some major updates. The main one is the current inability of the UCI to ban anyone but riders and sporting directors, and now you’ve pointed out that the UCI’s anti-doping code should be updated to restrict suspended riders from entering any team/official area not accessible to the public at a race like the AFL anti-doping code does.

  • ay

    As things stand, she will likely be hit with a lifetime ban, while
    the unknown third parties in the case will escape punishment.
    Is that fair?

    Maybe she’s been offered a large sum of money from that third party by not defending herself.

    • Dave

      Even if she did name the others involved, the UCI regulations don’t currently have any capacity for banning people other than riders and sporting directors.

      I would guess that her father was the one organising it all, not a ‘third party’ who would need to pay for her silence.

  • Marc Daels

    I wonder why the Disciplinary Commission did not make a decision on Tuesday, and why the UCI has no comments. Could it be there’s a problem with the implementation of the rules or with the contents of the file?, and has the file been sent back to the UCI?

    • Dave

      The UCI made this statement on Tuesday:

      “The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) confirms that the Disciplinary Commission hearing regarding the Femke Van den Driessche case took place today at the UCI World Cycling Centre, headquarters of the International Federation in Aigle, Switzerland. A decision will be rendered and announced in due course and until then, the UCI will not be making any further comment.”

      I don’t blame them for making sure this is done properly instead of jumping too early.

  • dperreno

    Did she actually use the bike in the race? Was it set up for her measurements? Was there a battery found for it? I haven’t been able to find answers to any of those questions. Obviously it was against the rules to have the bike in the pit, but I would expect the penalty to be less severe for just that vs. if the bike had actually been ridden during the race. If there was no battery and/or the seat and handlebars were not set up for her, that would at least lend some credence to her claim. I agree that the UCI should now release more details of exactly what was found.

    • Marc Daels

      (a) She did not use the bike during the race. She started with a normal bike. The bike with the motor was confiscated by UCI-officials during the first round of the race. (b) No clue. (c) A motor including the battery was found inside the frame.

      • dperreno

        as to (c), this is all I’ve read about that:

        “They have found electrical cables and a motor inside the bike, according to Sporza, translated:
        “After one lap of the World Championships…Femke’s bike in the pit area was immediately sealed and taken.”
        “When the saddle and seatpost was removed, there were electrical cables from the tube.”
        “When they wanted to remove the bottom bracket, which is normally easy, it was not because the crankshaft was stuck. Just sat there the motor.””

        No mention of a battery in the bike (just electrical cables and a motor), but one could have been on the bike (water bottle, saddle bag) or in the pit area somewhere, but I haven’t heard of that either.

        I mean, it’s like we’ve been given only half a loaf here – where’s the rest of it? It certainly looks bad, but it isn’t a slam dunk, at least not based on what’s been revealed so far.

        • Marc Daels

          The bottom part of the down tube has been opened and made larger (has been witnessed by other riders) to contain the battery.

        • Marc Daels

          The bottom part of the down tube has been opened and made larger (has been witnessed by other riders) to contain the battery.

        • Dave

          Regarding part (a) you have to remember that the UCI were tipped off by other riders and confiscated the bike from the race pit. The teams only get a very small pit area to work in during the race, so they only take what they intend to use for the race from the truck back in the technical zone to the race pit. That a moto was picked out from the truck and taken to the race pit is a smoking gun.

          I’m sure that more of the UCI’s case file will be released in due course. Given that both sides have agreed it is correct, I don’t see why it shouldn’t be released with the only modifications being the redaction of any non-parties’ names.

  • David Beckwith

    Have to say that the calls for a life ban seem excessive to me, especially given other forms of cheating (in sport) only attract a 2 – 4 year stint on the sidelines. Would have to agree that the UCI can kick a couple of big, booming goals by releasing the relevant documentation.

  • Lopekal

    Cant help but think that photo looks like this:

    • Shane Stokes

      Brilliant! :D

    • Shane Stokes

      Brilliant! :D

  • Chuck

    The investigation MUST continue regardless of whether or not she defends herself. The mechanics, team officials, and her own family members need to be outed. This can’t end here just because she decides not to defend herself.

  • david__g

    Brother a doper, dad and brother (alleged) thieves. Yes, she should have known better, but there’s also little doubt she’s surrounded by dickheads and dingdongs and probably in a pretty difficult position (both before and after the discovery)

  • bigdo

    this is easily the most level-headed response I’ve read to date about this whole situation… Seems like cycling fans are just blood-thirsty loons that want a sacrifice immediately, and are quite incapable at looking at the larger picture. It’s obvious that she’s been put up to this type of activity.. Her director sportif as well as her family and other people in her ear are definitely culpable, and likely do this very thing with other riders… There’s always been an overall culture of doping in the sport and the UCI is so keen to punish the riders; often times who come from meager beginnings and are basically working class or poor, rather than look at the teams, who’s running them, how they’re run and what the “programs” are that these riders are subjected to…


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