Motorised doping: Van den Driessche’s ‘entourage’ could face sanctions

Several weeks after Belgian cyclocross rider Femke Van den Driessche was given a six-year ban for ‘mechanical doping’, UCI president Brian Cookson has indicated that members of the rider’s entourage might also receive sanctions.

Speaking to Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, the head of cycling’s governing body said he finds it unlikely Van den Driessche was solely responsible for the illegally modified bike.

“I do not think it all stops here for her entourage,” says Cookson. “Let me put it this way: I can’t imagine that this young lady has done this all on her own. If it turns out that other people were involved in the fraud, there could be consequences for them too. If necessary, we will refer them to the Belgian Cycling Federation.”

Van den Driessche’s lawyer, Kristof De Saedeleer, said he did not know of any sanctions for the rider’s entourage and questioned who the authorities would punish in any case.

“Her father was called in front of the committee, but only as a witness, not a defendant,” he told Het Nieuwsblad. “Only Femke herself was liable as a defendant. If there are soon to be sanctions for other people, you can do so only through new disciplinary procedures.”

Van den Driessche first made headlines during the Cyclocross World Championships in January when a bike in her section of the pits area was found to contain a hidden motor. Van den Driessche claimed the bike belonged to a family friend and that it was left in the pits area by mistake.

In mid March, on the eve of a hearing with the UCI’s Disciplinary Committee, Van den Driessche announced she was retiring from the sport. The UCI handed down its verdict a month later, banning the Belgian until October 2021, fining her 20,000 Swiss francs (AU$28,000) plus the cost of legal proceedings, and stripping her of all results since October 2015. That date is three months before the modified bike was found, suggesting the UCI suspects Van den Driessche of using a hidden motor in previous races as well.