Femke Van den Driessche

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Femke Van den Driessche
Femke van den driessche-1454767232.jpg
Personal information
Born (1996-08-27) 27 August 1996 (age 22)
Asse, Belgium
Team information
Current team Kleur op Maat - Nodrugs
Discipline Cyclo-cross
Mountain bike
Road cycling
Role Rider

Femke Van den Driessche (born 27 August 1996) is a Belgian former cyclo-cross cyclist, mountainbiker and road racing cyclist.[1][2]

As a junior, she became national cyclo-cross champion in 2011 and mountain bike champion in 2013. In 2015, Van den Driessche won the European Cyclo-cross Championships in the women's under-23 category, and in 2016 she became Belgian champion in the same category, but both titles were stripped later.

She became the first cyclist to officially be charged with mechanical doping, which arose from an incident that occurred at the 2016 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships. On 26 April 2016, she was retroactively banned from the sport for six years from 11 October 2015 until 10 October 2021, and all her results since that time shall be disqualified.[3]


As a junior, she became national cyclo-cross champion in 2011 and junior national mountain bike champion in 2013. At the junior cyclocross championships she won the silver medal in 2013, winning in 2014 the silver medal at the junior national mountain bike championships. She was also active as a road cyclist and won the provincial time trial championships in the novices category in 2012 after finishing second in the same race the year before.

In the Middelkerke cyclocross race in February 2015 she finished third behind Sanne Cant and the British rider Helen Wyman.

Van den Driessche competed between May and July 2015 on the road in international races in Belgium and the Netherlands. She competed in the national road race championships, BeNe Ladies Tour, Diamond Tour and Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik.[4]

In the 2015-16 cyclosross season Van den Driessche was beaten at the Koppenberg race by Jolien Verschueren in November 2015. Later that month she won her biggest race in her career, the European Cyclo-cross Championships in the women's under-23 category. In January 2016 she became Belgian cyclocross champion in the same category.

Allegations of mechanical doping[edit]

Van den Driessche started as one of the favorites during the women's under-23 race at the 2016 World Championships, but failed to finish.[5][6] Her race was interrupted as she had mechanical problems and electrical cables were observed hanging from her bike during a pit stop equipment check.[7][8]

During the race, the UCI checked the bicycles of Van den Driessche and found a motor in a bicycle that was in her pit. Almost six years since the first allegations of "mechanical doping" in cycling, this was the first time in cycling history that evidence of technological fraud had been found. The UCI had been testing a new detection system. The offence carries a minimum six-month suspension and a fine of between SFr20,000 and 200,000.[9][10] Van den Driessche denies she intended to cheat, and maintains that the bicycle was owned by a friend and was taken to the pit in error.[11][12][13] In the days following the incident, the friend who was claimed by Van den Driessche, Nico Van Muylder, said to Het Nieuwsblad that the bike was his. However, UCI technical regulation 12.1.013, bars the presence of motors on the bike, regardless of intent or whether the bike was actually used, going to be used or even belonged to anyone on the team. Riders are responsible under strict liability.[6][14][15]

In a clip that was later analyzed from the Koppenbergcross cyclo-cross race in November 2015 some moments look amiss. At one point she pulls away from the break on a cobble climb; apparently with little effort and still sitting on the saddle while others look laboured. At another point where she misses a couple of pedal strokes as she fiddles with her gears, it doesn't seem to take too much from her momentum despite being on an incline at the time.[16]

Reactions to the mechanical doping allegations[edit]

On 31 January 2016, Brian Cookson of the UCI held a press conference. He said “It is no secret that a motor was found.” He used three different phrases to characterize use of the motor as "technological doping", "mechanical doping" and "technological fraud". 'Legal' proceedings would be commenced, which could result in sanctions of the rider, team or staff. Possible penalties for the rider can be fines up to SFr200,000, and a lifetime ban from the sport. the team could be fined up to SFr1 million.[17] The matter will be heard by an independent Disciplinary Commission that is charged to hear evidence from "all relevant parties" and render its decision on whether a rule violation is proved and the amount of sanctions, if any, for breaches of the UCI Regulations.[18]

The degree of her culpability — given her age, experience, and the responsibility of her team — is an issue. Size of any sanction is controversial, as some riders are deeply affronted by the alleged infraction.[19] Claims have been made that she would receive the minimum sanction, as the weight of full sanctions might be unjust. That matter was referred to Philippe Muyters, the Flemish Minister for Sport.[20] Etixx team manager Patrick Lefevere thought a "lifetime suspension for the cheat" was appropriate.[21]

"I never thought that such schemes were possible. It's a scandal that Femke's entourage have deceived the Belgian federation," he said. Her sponsors expressed outrage at her breach of trust, and said that they would start their own legal actions.[21] "We thought that we had in Femke a great talent in the making but it seems that she fooled everyone." One cyclocross veteran, Sven Nys expressed shock and disappointment. Managing director Andrea Gastaldello, said he was "stunned" by the news that Van den Driessche competed with a concealed motor in her Wilier Triestina bike, "Our company will take legal action against the athlete and against any (person) responsible for this very serious matter to safeguard the reputation and image of the company," he said.[21]

Aftermath and end of career[edit]

On 14 March 2016, Van den Driessche announced she would not be defending herself in front of the disciplinary committee on March 15. She cited the heavy suspension demanded by the prosecution and the prohibitive cost of such a procedure in Switzerland. She said she was being denied the chance of getting a fair trial, as she had already been tried and convicted in the court of public opinion. Van den Driessche also announced her immediate retirement from cycling.[22]

On 26 April 2016, it was announced by the UCI that Driessche had been banned for six years and would forfeit all results since 10 October 2015. [23]


1st MaillotBélgica.PNG National Junior Cyclo-cross Championship
2nd Oost-Vlaanderen Provincial Time Trial Championship (Novices)
1st Flag of Oost-Vlaanderen.svg Oost-Vlaanderen Provincial Time Trial Championship (Novices)
1st MaillotBélgica.PNG National Junior XC Championship
1st Paal Mountainbike (Novices)
2nd National Junior Cyclo-cross Championship
2nd National Junior XC Championship
Voided results from 11 October 2015
1st UEC Champion Jersey.svg European under-23 Cyclo-cross Championship
2nd Koppenberg Cyclo-cross
3rd Middelkerke Cyclo-cross
1st MaillotBélgica.PNG National U23 Cyclo-cross Championship


  1. ^ "2016 Cyclo-cross World Championships: Entries list women's under-23" (PDF). wk2016.be. Retrieved 1 February 2016.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ "Femke Van Den Driessche". cyclingarchives.com. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  3. ^ Van den Driessche handed six-year ban for mechanical doping
  4. ^ "Femke van den Driessche". www.procyclingstats.com. Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  5. ^ Mail Foreign Service (31 January 2016). "Secret electric MOTOR is discovered inside cyclist's bike at women's world championship race after competitor pulls out with 'mechanical problem'". Daily Mail. Retrieved 29 February 2016. Femke Van den Driessche was at the world cyclo-cross championship. But the 19-year-old pulled out of the race — and the device was discovered; Van den Driessche claims the bike was not hers and says she is no cheat
  6. ^ a b Redford, Patrick (2 February 2016). "Motorized Doping, Explained: Your Guide To The Weirdest Sports Scandal Of The Year". Fittish. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  7. ^ McCormick, Rich (2 February 2016). "Pro cyclist caught with concealed motor in bike during world championships". The Verge. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  8. ^ McMahon, Daniel (1 February 2016). "A professional cyclist just got caught with an electric motor in her bicycle frame". Tech Insider. Business Insider. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  9. ^ Seaton, Dan (30 January 2016). "Technological fraud discovered at Zolder cyclocross worlds". VeloNews. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  10. ^ "Rider implicated after motor found on bike at world cyclo-cross championships". The Guardian.
  11. ^ "UCI confirms motorised bike at Cyclo-cross World Championships". BBC. 31 January 2016. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  12. ^ "Femke van Den Driessche Denies Using Motor at Cyclo-cross World Championships". Cycling News. 31 January 2016. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  13. ^ Some sources were openly incredulous. Mills, Chris (31 January 2016). "Cycling Has Moved From Actual Doping to 'Mechanical Doping'". Gizmodo. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  14. ^ Frattini, Kirsten (2 February 2016). "Van den Driessche's friend claims ownership of motorised bike". Cycling News. Cyclingnews.com. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  15. ^ Frattini, Kirsten (30 January 2016). "Race: UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships — UCI investigates possible bike fraud at cyclo-cross Worlds: Bike detained after inaugural U23 women's race in Zolder". Cycling News. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  16. ^ "Video: Was Van den Driessche using motor in this race clip? Take a look". Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  17. ^ Andrew (31 January 2016). "UCI Confirms Mechanical Doping at 2016 Cyclocross World Championships". Cyclocross Magazine. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  18. ^ MacKay, Hamish (10 February 2016). "Mechanical doping in cycling". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  19. ^ Slater, Matt (12 February 2016). "Evie Richards: Van den Driessche merits long ban for mechanical doping". BBC Sport. Retrieved 1 March 2016. New British cycling star Evie Richards believes Belgian rival Femke Van den Driessche should be banned for at least two years for mechanical doping. "Six months is pretty short as it's only a season off the bike - I think a couple of years. But because she is such a young age I think there should be more penalties for the coaches and support team around her. Belgium is so into cyclo-cross that it's quite upsetting there wasn't the right support around her. So I think the penalties should not just be on her."
  20. ^ Curtin, Daniel, Jr. (10 February 2016). "Rumors & Rumblings: Femke Van den Dreissch May Only Get 6 Month Suspension and Fine". Cyclocross Magazine. Retrieved 1 March 2016. Flemish MP Lionel Bajart has indicated in a press release that whether mechanical or biological, the idea behind the sanction is the same, to discourage cheating and punish those who are caught. However, he also cautioned that without explicit mention in the country’s anti-doping charter, there are questions as to whether full sanctions are just.
  21. ^ a b c McMahon, Daniel (1 February 2016). "A 19-year-old Belgian cyclist got caught cheating at the world championships after racing a bike that had a motor hidden in the frame". Business Insider. Retrieved 1 March 2016. We are literally shocked, as the main technical partner, we want to distance from this act absolutely contrary to the basic values of our company, and with the principles of each sporting competition. Really unacceptable that the photos of our bike is making the rounds of the international media due to this unpleasant fact. We work every day to bring worldwide the quality of our products and when we know that a Wilier Triestina’s bike is meanly tampered we’re very sad. Our Company will take legal action against the athlete and against any responsible for this very serious matter, in order to safeguard the good name and image of the company, marked by professionalism and seriousness in 110 years of history.
  22. ^ "Femke Van den Driessche: 'Mijn proces was overal al gevoerd'". De Standaard. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  23. ^ "The UCI announces Disciplinary Commission decision in the case of Femke Van den Driessche". Union Cycliste Internationale. Union Cycliste Internationale. 26 April 2016. Retrieved 26 April 2016.

External links[edit]