Femke Van den Driessche—who implicated herself at the 2016 Cyclocross World Championships in the sport’s first mechanical doping scandal—has decided to quit cyclocross, rather than defend herself against the UCI’s disciplinary commission in Switzerland this week.
Last week, the 19-year-old’s lawyer told newspapers that the UCI’s case against Van den Driessche revolved around a bike that she had no intention of actually riding, and that the potential lifetime ban and €50,000 fine were thus excessive. Now, the day before the hearing, it seems Van den Driessche has decided to essentially ban herself, stepping back from the sport entirely.
“After consulting with lawyers and my family, I decided to discontinue my defense at the trial in Aigle. I have decided for myself to stop cyclocross,” Van den Driessche explains in a statement published in Het Neiuwsblad.
“The costs of that meeting in Switzerland will be too high for me,” she says. “The acquittal is impossible; that was my bike in the pit zone. I thank all the people who supported me and still support my lawyers, friends, and supporters. I want to continue my life in peace and serenity and hope that everyone will have some understanding for this and will respect this.”
The case is far from over, despite her acquiescence—Van den Driessche still faces a potential official ban, as well as a fine. The UCI has been vocal about maintaining a zero-tolerance policy of mechanical doping, and increasing and improving its monitoring of mechanically doped bikes, and has a chance to set a stringent precedent in its handling of this case. Stay tuned for updates as to whether her decision to leave before being forced out sways the UCI to reconsider the ban or lower her fine.
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