Hidden motors: Van den Dreissche banned for six years, stripped of European and Belgian Under 23 titles

by Shane Stokes


The UCI has announced the outcome of its Disciplinary Commission hearing in relation to Femke Van den Driessche, the first person officially accused of using a hidden motor in competition.

The Belgian has been found guilty of the charge of technological fraud and as a consequence, has been handed a six year ban.

Interestingly, the suspension starts on October 11 2015, far in advance of the world cyclocross championships where her violation was detected.

The European youth champion was plunged into controversy when a bike check in the pit area at the under 23 race at the cyclocross worlds in Belgium on January 30 uncovered the bike in question.

She said at the time that the bike used to be hers but that she sold it to a family friend. She claimed that he had put a motor in unbeknownst to her, and that he had brought the bike to the world cyclocross championships to ride the course.

She also said that this bike was taken by accident by her helpers to the pit area.

One day prior to the disiciplinary hearing Van den Driessche said that she had decided not to attend.

“After consultation with lawyers and my family I decided to stop my defence in the process in Aigle,” she said, according to Het Nieuwsblad. “I have decided to stop cyclocross.”

UCI regulation 12.1.013 lays out the sanctions for those proven to have committed technological fraud. It states that the rider in question will be suspended for a minimum of six months and handed a fine of between 20,000 and 200,000 Swiss francs.

Each 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.

Tuesday’s UCI announcement lays out the official findings, including the nature of the hidden motor.

“The bike concerned was scanned using the new magnetic resonance testing deployed this year by the UCI,” it said in a statement announcing the sanction.

“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.”

She was found to have violated articles 1.3.010 and 12.013bis of the UCI regulations.

The sanction details saw her stripped of all results dating back to October 11 2015, the date of the Bpost bank trofee in Ronse, Belgium. She was eighth in that event.

The lost results include her European under 23 championship and Belgian under 23 championship titles, and she has been ordered to return all medals and prize money secured in this time.

She has also been ordered to pay a fine of 20,000 Swiss francs plus the costs of the proceedings. The amount of the latter will be disclosed at a later point of time in the full reasoned decision.

While Van den Driessche claimed the motor finding at the world championships was an innocent mistake, the stripping of her results dating back before that point indicates that the UCI believes she cheated in earlier events.

These include the Koppenbergcross on November 1st. Her climbing performances en route to second in the race had been redflagged by competitors.

In February Matt Brammeier, husband of third-placed Nikki Harris, spoke in detail about the race to CyclingTips.

In addition to questioning her performance there, he also said that those working with her were behaving strangely.

“I was stood in the pit next to Femke’s entourage,” he said then. “I don’t quite know what it was, but something seemed a bit weird there. The whole team had walkie talkie radios, ear pieces and seemed pretty anxious and, overall, just a bit odd. I’d never seen that before and it kind of stuck in my head.”

Tuesday’s announcement that Van den Driessche had been sanctioned did not indicate of any members of her entourage have been found to be at fault.

Responding to the news, UCI president Brian Cookson described it as a major victory.

“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,” he stated.

“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.”

The UCI said that over 100 bikes were scanned at the cyclocross worlds. It also tested 274 at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in London, 216 at the Tour of Flanders, 232 at Paris-Roubaix and 173 at the U23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

It stated that it will “continue to test heavily in all disciplines throughout the year.”

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