"Doped bikes" that use hidden motors to give riders a boost have long been suspected but never seen. However, officials accused 19-year-old Belgian star Femke Van den Driesshe (above) of "technological fraud" at the cyclocross World Championships on Saturday. "It was no secret that a motor was found. We believe that it was indeed technological doping," said Brian Cookson, the president of the Union Cycliste International (UCI). He added that "we've been [testing] new methods of detection but you'll understand why I don't want to go into details."
According to reports, those methods involve scanning for radio frequencies that match electric motors, but the UCI also started doing random bike checks a major events last year. Van den Dreissche reportedly came under suspicion after her bike developed mechanical problems, and a rumor quickly spread that there was something wrong with it. UCI officials confirmed the news on Sunday, with Cookson tweeting that "technological fraud is unacceptable. We want the minority who may consider cheating to know that, increasingly. There is no place to hide, and sooner or later they will pay for the damage they're causing to our sport."
Technological fraud is unacceptable. We want the minority who may consider cheating to know that, increasingly 1/2 pic.twitter.com/kxz3Phct7P— Brian Cookson OBE (@BrianCooksonUCI) January 31, 2016
According to Belgian press, the bike had electrical cables in the seat post and a motor hidden in the bottom bracket, but no pictures of the offending system have been posted yet. Van den Driessche denied that she was a cheater, and told Belgian TV station Sporza that the bike belonged to a friend. "It wasn't my bike, it was my friend's and was identical to mine. This friend went around the course Saturday before dropping off the bike in the truck. A mechanic, thinking it was my bike, cleaned it and prepared it for my race."
Van den Driessche could be punished by a six month suspension and a fine of up to 200,000 Swiss francs ($196,000) if found guilty. The cycling body promised a thorough investigation, but if the allegations are proven, van den Driessche will become the sport's first mechanical doper.