Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad reports that the UCI is looking for a stiff sanction against Femke Van den Driessche, whose bike was found to contain a hidden motor at the 2016 Cyclo-cross World Championships in January.
Van den Driessche will appear before a UCI Disciplinary Commission hearing next week in Aigle, Switzerland. The 19-year-old Belgian may be hit with a lifetime ban and a €50,000 fine if the UCI’s reported recommendation is followed.
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According to Het Nieuwsblad, Van den Driessche’s lawyers are disputing the length of the proposed ban, pointing out that it is a first offence and saying: “We want a fair chance, not a sham trial”. However, it is possible that the UCI will use this first instance of someone being caught ‘mechanical doping’ as an example to deter others.
UCI inspectors found a hidden electric motor in the frame of a bike intended for use by Van den Driessche at the ‘Cross Worlds in Belgium. Van den Driessche and her family claimed that the bike actually belonged to a friend, and was placed in the pits by accident.
Former Belgian professional Nico Van Muylder subsequently told Belgian press that the bike was his.
Since finding a motor in a bike at the ‘Cross Worlds, the UCI has stepped up checks at all events and introduced new equipment to detect motors.
“The UCI has invested considerable time and financial resources in this area and trialling new methods of detection is part of its commitment to ensuring its tests are as robust as possible,” said a UCI statement on February 12.
“Intelligence has also been gained from active engagement with the industry and other information given to us which has enabled us to refine and improve our testing.
“The UCI will continue to test significant numbers of bikes in unannounced tests in all disciplines throughout 2016 and beyond.”