Belgian press is reporting today that Femke Van den Driessche has abandoned her defense in the case brought by the UCI involving the mechanical doping charge against her, and is leaving the sport of cyclocross effective immediately.
The former European and Belgian National Champion faced a lifetime suspension as well as a fine of 50,000 euros at her hearing which was scheduled to start tomorrow, March 15.
The matter began back at the World Championships in Zolder. The UCI was scanning bikes in the pit area using a tablet application and discovered that a Wilier cyclocross bike belonging to Van den Driessche had a motor in it. The bike was confiscated and the UCI was forced to hold a press conference the following day to confirm the news swirling around the event.
Of course, frustration and anger abound at the news of the first motorized-doping claim. Cyclocross fans were by and large disgusted, but many ‘cross racers as well as the mainstream press outlets made all manner of joke too. One could even purchase a Wilier pedal-assisted cyclocross bike on-line, presumably so you could ride like a pro.
In the wake of the allegations, the rider initially claimed that the bike was not hers, that it belonged to a friend who trained with her from time to time, and that she never raced the bike. And as the matter progressed, the first reports were that Van den Driessche faced a six month ban and a fine of 18,000 euros. After some time her family reported that they would take “full responsibility,” but made clear they hoped for a fair and just hearing.
All of that seemed to change when it was announced recently that the UCI would seek the aforementioned greater penalty.
It appears the prospect of a lifetime ban, not to mention the hefty financial penalty, forced Van den Driessche’s hand.
For her part, Van den Driessche told Het Nieuwsbald that “After consulting with lawyers and my family, I decided to discontinue my defense at the trial in Aigle [and] I have decided for myself to stop cyclocross. The costs of that meeting in Switzerland will be too high for me. The acquittal is impossible, that was my bike in [pits]. I thank all the people who supported me and still support [me], 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.”
It remains to be seen if Van den Driessche will stay face the financial penalty for the rules infraction.