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As members of the media piled into the press room on the World Cyclocross Championship course in Heusden-Zolder for an otherwise routine press conference, there was only one topic of interest: the first caught technical fraud case.
Belgian under-23 rider Femke van den Driessche is under investigation over what the UCI has described as technological fraud, after a motor was found in her bike during the U23 championship race on Saturday.
“It was a concealed motor. No secrets about that,” UCI President Brian Cookson told the packed room.
Cookson and UCI coordinator Peter van den Abeele declined to comment much beyond that, stating that the evidence has been handed to the Disciplinary Committee who will handle the case from here.
Cookson did ask all those involved to speak truthfully, stating “in the end our sport will benefit from telling the truth on how it happened and who was involved.”
According to UCI regulation 12.1.013, if sanctioned Van den Driessche is looking at a six month ban at minimum and a substantial fine for her and the team involved.
At this point, it is unconfirmed whether Van den Driessche’s trade team or the Belgian Federation were aware or involved in the technical fraud.
New technology should be a warning for all riders wanting to cheat.
“We have heard some stories for a long time now about the possibility of [motorised doping] and we have been testing at a number of events,” said Cookson, adding that “a number of bikes” were tested in every race yesterday and the same will happen during the U23 and Elite men’s races.
Cookson also recognised that with the discovery of this fraud case, other riders “may well have been using this type of cheating” in cyclocross and other disciplines of the sport.
“If these are in widespread use remains to be seen,” said Cookson.
Emphasizing the UCI’s commitment to protecting the integrity of the sport, Cookson said the UCI has been looking into new methods for screening more bikes in time-efficient and non-invasive ways.
Though he would not expand on the new technology used, he spoke confidently about its effectiveness and delivered a strong message to all riders.
“We will be testing more bikes, more often, more frequently. Our message to those choosing to cheat is that we will catch up with you sooner or later,” he stated. “We are committed to protecting the riders that do not want to cheat and to make sure that the right riders win the races.”