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Mechanical doping: Six-year ban for Femke Van den Driessche

Belgian cyclo-cross rider also fined 20,000 Swiss Francs; UCI says motor was a Vivax

Belgian cyclo-cross rider Femke Van den Driessche has been banned from cycling for six years following the discovery of a concealed motor in a bike prepared for her at the world championships in Zolder at the end ofJanuary.

In the first case of its type, the UCI disciplinary committee has also fined her 20,000 Swiss Francs and stripped her of results obtained since 11 October 2015, the date on which her ban starts.

The UCI confirmed that the motor concerned was a Vivax, operated by a Bluetooth switch concealed under the bar tape, detected using magnetic resonance testing technology deployed for the first time this year.

The fact the ban is backdated by nearly three months suggests the UCI is satisfied that Ven den Driessche was using the illegal equipment throughout the season.

That mirrors suspicions expressed by some riders after the world championships that the 19-year-old had cheated at races such as the Koppenbergcross World Cup event in November.

Ven den Driessche, who had claimed that the bike belonged to a friend and had been prepared for her in error, also loses all prize money she won since 11 December, as well as her Under-23 Belgian and European titles.

She chose not to defend herself at the disciplinary hearing in Aigle, Switzerland, last month.

The UCI said that besides checking 100 bikes at Zolder for concealed motors, it had 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)," adding that it would "continue to test heavily in all disciplines throughout the year."

Last week, a joint investigation by journalists from the French TV show Stade 2 and Italian newspaper La Corriere della Sera claimed to have detected seven bikes equipped with hidden motors at races in March including Strade Bianche.

> Hidden motors used at Strade Bianche, claims French TV (+ video)

They said the thermal imaging equipment used in their investigation was more accurate than the UCI's kit, which uses an app linked to a tablet computer to look for magnetic waves.

They also claimed that motors in use now are much smaller - 5cm in length compared to 22cm for the Vivax now confirmed as having been found in Van den Driessche's bike.

UCI President Brian Cookson commented: “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.

"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.”

> Tour de France chief: Mechanical doping the biggest challenge facing pro cycling

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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