Mechanical Doping No Longer Just A Rumor
|Belgian Femke Van den Driessche in Cyclocross Race (photo courtesy of VeloNews)|
Cycling has been plagued for years by cheaters like Lance Armstrong who doped to gain an advantage over their competitors (At least over the ones who weren't also cheating). Through enhanced testing, the sport has managed to reduce doping, but now there is a new threat, which some are calling "Mechanical doping." It involves using a small electric motor to give the rider a small boost. Rumors of this type of cheating have been around for several years, but in January of 2016, the UCI (International Cycling Union) detected a hidden motor in a top-level race for the first time.
Belgian Femke Van den Driessche was the favorite going into the under 23 cyclo-cross world championships in Belgium. During the race the UCI detected a hidden motor in one of her bicycles. She claimed it actually belonged to a teammate, but nobody is buying that story. Even the Belgian coach Rudy De Bie stated that he was "Disgusted." He went on to say "We thought that we had in Femke a great talent in the making but it seems that she fooled everyone." One of her sponsors, Italian bicycle maker Wilier Triestina, said they planned to sue her.
The UCI hasn't given out a lot of details, other than to state that the investigation is ongoing. One of the questions people are asking is who else was involved. One rider stated "Certainly the weight of a motor and battery pack would’ve been enough for even a half-ass mechanic to question whether something was wrong." Femke faces a minimum six month suspension, but some have called for a lifetime ban.