Bike of Belgian under-23 rider Femke Van den Driessche 'detained for further investigation' by the UCI. Could this be the first case of mechanical doping?


The Union Cycliste Internationale has detained a bike used in the women’s under-23 cyclo-cross world championship race in Zolder, Belgium, on Saturday as it is suspected of ‘technological fraud’.

UCI inspectors had been examining bikes during the event, and the bike of European under-23 champion, Belgian Femke Van den Driessche was detained after something suspicious was found. Checks were being made to bikes for ‘mechanical doping’ – an electric motor concealed in a bike to aid the rider – among other technical infringements.

A brief statement was issued by the UCI, reading: “The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) confirms that pursuant to the UCI’s Regulations on technological fraud a bike has been detained for further investigation following checks at the Women’s Under 23 race of the 2016 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships.

“This does not concern any of the riders on the podium. Further details will be shared in due course.”

>>> Chris Froome welcomes latest bike checks in fight against mechanical doping

According to Belgian media outlet Sporza, the Belgian cycling federation confirmed that rider in question was Van den Driessche, who had withdrawn during the race after suffering a mechanical problem with her bike. She had been one of the pre-race favourites to take the victory.

Rumours of ‘mechanical doping’ have surfaced with some regularity over the past few years. The UCI now undertakes regular checks of bikes at various events to ensure there are no concealed electric motors – but so far, nothing has been found. According to reports, the UCI had introduced a new method to detect motors at Zolder.

The inaugural under-23 women’s cyclo-cross world championship was won by British rider Evie Richards. Report to follow.

  • Eddie Poe

    Those motors already exist and are very expensive (the hidden stealth ones, anyway). My bet is that there isn’t a huge market for these. Everyone I know likes the concept of a motorized bike for recreational riding, but don’t like the pricetags they see when they go shopping for them.

  • AMck

    I will start a shadow forum for electric bike owners and cheats called ” Cycling Weakly”

  • kevinmorice

    Apparently that doesn’t matter, the UCI Rule is just that if you bring the bike to a race you are in breach of 12.10.013.

  • kevinmorice

    You are at the World Champs, the biggest race of your life, and your mechanic doesn’t take 30 seconds with a tape measure to check that your bike hasn’t moved in transit?

    UCI Tech officials everywhere, and they are guaranteed to be checking minimum weights, why would you not take the 10 seconds to test the weight as well?

    Apparently Rule 12.10.013 says you can’t even bring a powered bike to a race. If she can show conclusively that someone else brought it instead and put it in her kit without her knowledge (not easy to prove) then she will be off the hook.

  • Roger

    Why would a mechanic measure and weigh and bike just before a race if the supposed owner had not complained about it?

    I don’t know what offence she has supposedly committed. All the UCI statement says is that a bike has been detained for further investigation.

  • AMck

    One thing that intrigues me is how do you produce an electric motor small light & inconspicuous yet powerful enough to give a competitive advantage during such a race. What an invention, why worry about winning races… patent & sell it to the general public you will make a fortune . Meanwhile leave racing as pure as possible when it comes to power …it should only be human input . otherwise it becomes like F1 80% car 20% driver that wins races.

  • kevinmorice

    If the mechanic at a World champs doesn’t have the tape measure and scales out before a race then you need a new mechanic.

    And if she didn’t ride the bike then what offence has she supposedly committed?! Owning a powered bike is not an offence.

  • Roger

    She didn’t ride the bike. Unless the setup was wildly different from hers the difference wouldn’t have been apparent to an unsuspecting mechanic.

  • Roger

    Maybe no coincidence. The whole thing could be a practical joke or sabotage. Anybody could have turned up with a prepared bike and leant it against the bus.

  • kevinmorice

    Some serious holes in this story. 1. The claimed description of cables running from the seatpost (posted in other versons of the story but missing here) being suspicious and triggering the investigation, I have cables running from my seatpost, that is where the Di2 battery pack lives on almost all top end cross bikes. No way that was the reason they investigated. 2. That she had her friends bike, identical frame and components maybe, identical set-up, no chance. 3. And why is her ‘friend’ not being named and outed as the real culprit? 4. That neither she nor the mechanic noticed the weight difference? 5. There has to be a switch somewhere to run the motor, that again neither she nor the mechanic noticed? 6. That she finished way down on her predicted position.

  • dourscot

    Three years minimum, with no stupid backdating. One year is no sanction at all for a 19 year old.

  • dourscot

    The CW story is poorly constructed and didn’t make clear that she wasn’t riding the doped bike.

    But it was still in her lineup and that seems incredibly unlikely to be a coincidence. I find it hard to believe that the UCI would have made a public announcement without checking the plausibility of her story first.

  • Michael Halcrow

    Yeah, it’s like what happened to Lance. He thought he was getting infusions of natural juices and berries in his post-ride “recovery” IV. His conniving doctor must have slipped EPOs in the bag!

  • Derek Biggerstaff

    Then they won’t have to eat humble pie, for a while at least. This is why I said ‘if’.

  • Howmanyjackos

    Don’t approve but from an engineers perspective I’m intrigued. ..
    How much gain?
    How was it switched on?
    It would surely provide extra drag when it wasn’t powered up…
    Its cheating undoubtedly. But given the use of electronic groupsets these days it is not surprising.

  • @grayvelo

    Yeah, absolutely no sign of it. Time to find another “go to” cycling website for my hourly fix I think.

  • Roger

    She wasn’t riding it. The bike in question wasn’t the one she was racing on. She said on Sporza this morning that she sold it to a friend of her brother’s at the end of last season. She also said someone left it by the team bus and one of the mechanics picked it up, thinking it was hers, which was how it ended up with her spare bikes.

  • dourscot

    If it wasn’t her bike why was she riding it?!

    Just another empty excuse that disrespects the sport.

  • Kid Charlemane

    When I first read the comments on here, the one about not being able to claim the same sort of contaminated food defence rang true. The I read an article on The Guardian website which has a quote from the rider’s father saying that this wasn’t the bike ridden during the race and that somebody else took it to the pit for inspection, so maybe we will be in for an excuse after all.

  • Roger

    Not if it wasn’t her bike or she knew nothing about it.

  • Roger

    How do you know it’s not true?

  • dourscot

    Apparently the rider’s father claims the bike wasn’t hers.

    There is no end to the bullshit people come out with when this happens.

  • Guy Swarbrick

    And if it doesn’t…? 😉

  • Dabber

    Everyone will have their own view on the severity of the sanction if this proves to be a rider who has cheated using a motor. My view is that whereas the clenbuterol/steak, contaminated supplements etc have at least a small possibility of being true, fitting a motor is just out and out cheating and there doesn’t appear to be the possibility of a grey area. So for me… a life ban.
    Fitting a motor isn’t a spur of the moment decision and has to be well planned.

  • blemcooper

    He was auditioning for the JJ Abrams reboot of the Peewee Herman franchise. If he can’t drop the weight to play Peewee, he’ll be going for the next round of Holiday Inn Express commercials.

  • John

    Who? What? Tell me more! There was a time when CW would have run that headline for a week. What happened?

  • TrevorHoldsworth

    You’re on the wrong website – this is cheatingweekly_co_uk, it no longer covers genuine athletic achievements. Cheating stories really motivate the comment writers. 😉

  • Altimis Nuel

    Life ban probably too much though.

    1 year ban already good.

  • Derek Biggerstaff

    I hope there are people queueing up to eat humble pie if this turns out to be true, after the derision that was heaped on the heads of those who took the possibility seriously.

  • designmyjersey

    and the footnote to the story is… that Britain have an U23 World Champion… Surely this should be a headline in its own right?

  • Rupert the Super Bear

    That’s no way to talk about the Police!

  • Roger

    Yes. I’ve seen it on the road too. Old fat blokes sitting far too upright on their bikes doing absolutely massive turns at the front.

  • andyoldlabour

    I remember seeing this once on a track, and to be fair I had my suspicions at the time. There was Chris Hoy and five other riders strung out behind this fat bloke on a weird looking bike, and they couldn’t get past him. Eventually the fat dude got fed up (probably getting hungry) and pulled off the track, which is the only reason he didn’t win as far as I could see!

  • Dabber

    If true that it was a motor it should result in a life ban, no question.

  • Andrew Bairsto

    Surely mechanical infringement is nearer the mark.

  • A mí no me pagan por opinar

    Yeah, but cheating comes in many flavors and mechanical doping is just one of them.

  • qu4ttro

    Why is it called mechanical doping? Just call it what it is. Cheating.