Following the earlier news that Belgian under-23 rider Femke Van den Driessche is under investigation over what the UCI has described as technological fraud, further details have emerged about what appears to have been a motor in her bike.
The European champion has been plunged into the scandal after a bike belonging to her was screened in the pits at the race and found to be in violation of the rules.
“Our auditors made checks at the start and during the race in the pit and they have established mechanical fraud,” stated UCI coordinator Peter Van den Abeele to Sporza.
The same publication has now elaborated on the circumstances. Journalist Martin Vangramberen explained how things unfolded.
“After one lap at the world championships the UCI checked Femke’s bike in the pits with some kind of tablet [electronic device – ed]. The bike was immediately sealed and taken away.
“When the saddle of the tube was removed, there were electrical cables protruding from the tube. When they wanted to remove the crankshaft, something that is normally easy, it was not possible because the crankshaft was stuck. The motor was in there.”
He added that the mood in the Belgian camp is very subdued, and that Belgian cycling federation director Jos Smets was seen crying.
UCI regulation 12.1.013 lays out the sanctions for those proven to have committed technological fraud. Riders found guilty will be suspended for a minimum of six months and handed a fine of between 20,000 and 200,000 Swiss francs.
The rider’s team can also be hit, incurring a ban of at least six months and a fine of between 100,000 and one million Swiss francs. It is not clear at this point in time if the Belgian national team would be punished.
Meanwhile Van den Driessche’s father has, predictably, insisted upon her innocence.
“It’s not Femke’s bike,” he claimed to De Staandard. “The bike was in the pit but it is [belonging to] someone from her entourage, who sometimes trains with her. But it was never the intention that it would be raced.
“Femke has absolutely not used that bike during the race. We are strongly affected by the events. Femke is totally upside down about it.
“We also do not know what ‘technical fraud’ means. But if the intention was to cheat, you would ride that bike, wouldn’t you?
“Femke has been European and Belgian Champion. Why would you do in the world championships?”
His words will likely be viewed with some scepticism, as her brother is currently serving a ban for EPO.