The whole point of a bicycle is using man-made power to get the two wheels to turn. How fast one goes is largely determined by the effort exerted by said person powering the bike.
Apparently one intrepid competitive cyclist didn’t get that memo, and decided to cheat at the Union Cycliste Internationale Cyclocross World Championships back in January. The UCI’s report indicates that Femke Van den Driessche of Belgium was discovered to have competed in the event with a mechanized motor hidden within her bike.
Yes, you are reading that right—a competitive cyclist apparently decided to dope her own bike in an attempt to have to do less work and potentially win the event.
For Van den Driessche’s “mechanical doping,” or whatever you want to call it, she received a six-year ban starting from last October (suggesting the federation believes she was cheating earlier than January). How does one get caught with this type of situation happening?
A magnetic resonance scan, which Road.cc reports was conducted with a tablet, allowed officials to spot a battery and Vivax motor in the seat tube. Van den Driessche could have activated it using a Bluetooth switch concealed under her handlebar tape. She denied the allegations at the time, claiming the bike was given to her by mistake.
Basically it was the old baseball doping excuse of “I didn’t know that was in my supplement” argument. She says a friend was using the bike and was similar to the one she normally uses and she, nor her team, had any clue the switch happened.
The six-year ban also indicates that this group was after Van den Driessche for some time, as the UCI is calling this punishment the first-ever for “mechanical doping.” It was also the only bike of over 100 tested at the event to respond this way, with every other bike passing the same inspection after the race.
For a sport with an already tarnished reputation thanks to blood doping, steroids and general cheating in and outside of competition, having someone tamper with the actual equipment of the trade certainly gives the sport a second black eye it doesn’t exactly need.