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?

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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media outlet Sporza, the Belgian cycling federation confirmed that rider in question was Van den Driessche, who had withdrawn during the race after suffering a mechanical problem with her bike.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.