The UCI announced Tuesday it has banned former Belgian cyclocross racer Femke Van den Driessche for six years in cycling’s first recorded case of mechanical doping.
The 19-year-old Van den Driessche, who announced her retirement from professional cycling in March, was found to have a hidden electric motor in one of her bikes at the cyclocross world championships in January.
Van den Driessche won the under-23 European championship last fall and, shortly before the worlds, she become the Belgian U23 champion.
The discovery of the hidden motor, however, derailed her career. The-high profile case gained international attention. She eventually announced her retirement from cycling on March 14, the day before a UCI disciplinary committee hearing was to be held. She declined to attend the hearing.
The UCI discovered the hidden motor and its battery using a magnetic resonance test it’s been employing this season in response to claims of riders using motors in their bikes. Van den Driessche’s setup, according to a UCI press release, contained a switch under the handlebar tape that controlled the motor via bluetooth.
“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,” UCI president Brian Cookson said. “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.”
Van den Driessche’s 2015 results, dating back to October 11, were annulled as part of the suspension. She was also ordered to pay back any prize money and medals from that time frame, and the UCI fined her 20,000 Swiss francs.
“Over 100 bikes were scanned at the event and this new method of testing has proven in trials to be extremely effective in locating hidden motors or other forms of technological fraud as it quickly detects motors, magnetic fields and solid objects concealed in a frame or components,” a UCI statement reads.