The cycling world has been abuzz with rumors that cyclists have been ‘moto-doping’ for years. Every few years, the UCI tests some bikes, riders get mad, and nobody gets caught. All told, it’s a pretty fantastical rumor that almost seemed too weird to be true. Cycling has been plagued by an ever-evolving series of doping problems, but moto-doping always felt more like something for truthers to parse out than anything (Look how Ryder Hesjedal’s back wheel keeps spinning!). Who would actually think they could get away with something as blatant as putting a motor into a bike?
Well, as it turns out, Femke Van den Driessche, that’s who. At this morning’s cyclocross world championships in Belgium, the Belgian Van den Driessche was participating in the U23 Women’s Championship. She was one of the favorites, but was forced to abandon with one lap left to go. Her bike was inspected by mechanics post-race, when the motor was found. The UCI’s sporting director Jos Smets confirmed that “technological fraud” had taken place (translated from Dutch):
“The UCI has defined technological fraud and we can confirm that this is the bike of Femke van den Driessche,” said Smets.
This is the first confirmed instance of mechanical doping in cycling. Officials looked at Alberto Contador and Hesjedal’s bikes during last year’s Giro d’Italia, but found nothing. Marianne Vos told Sporza (translated from Dutch):
“I understand nothing of it”, says seven-time world champion Marianne Vos at Sporza. “I never thought it would happen around me and I have never seen it. It just seems to me not an issue.”
“You have to wonder if it was the choice of the rider. There must have been someone else to do with it, one of her entourage. Hopefully it is an isolated case. I’m so sorry.”
I recommend you read Jason Gay’s dispatch on the issue from last summer’s Tour de France.