HEUSDEN-ZOLDER, Belgium: A concealed motor was found on a bike being used by Belgian cyclist Femke Van den Driessche at the world cyclo-cross championships, the head of the International Cycling Union (UCI) said on Sunday.
“It’s absolutely clear that there was technological fraud. There was a concealed motor. I don’t think there are any secrets about that,” Brian Cookson told a news conference.
The bike was seized on Saturday after Van den Driessche, one of the race favourites, was forced to withdraw from the women’s under-23 race because of a mechanical problem.
It is the first time that a case of a concealed motor used to power a bike has been confirmed at a top-level cycling competition.
Van den Driessche denied that she had on purpose used a bike with a concealed motor, saying that it was identical to her own but belonged to a friend and that a team mechanic had given it to her by mistake before the race.
“I have no fears of an inquiry into this. I have done nothing wrong,” she said.
If found guilty of cheating the rider faces disqualification, a six-month suspension and a fine of up to 200,000 Swiss francs (180,000 euros, $195,000).
“We’ve heard some stories for a long time now about the possibility of this. We have been alive to a potential way that people might cheat and we have been testing a number of bikes and a number of events for several months,” Cookson said.
“I am committed and the UCI is committed to protecting the riders who do not want to cheat in whatever form and to make sure that the right riders win the race.
“We have been looking at different methods of testing this kind of technology and we tested a number of bikes yesterday and one was found.
“We will keep testing both at this event and subsequent events. Whether this means that there is widespread use of this form of cheating remains to be seen.
Cookson said that the matter would next go before the UCI’s disciplinary commission.