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Mechanical doping: Cyclist gets 6-year ban for using bike with hidden motor

Noted Belgian cyclo-cross star Femke Van den Driessche is the first cyclist to be charged with mechanical doping.

​Belgian cyclist Femke Van den Driessche.​
Belgian cyclist Femke Van den Driessche said it was a friend's bike.
Tim de Waele/Corbis

Sneaky, but not sneaky enough. When Belgian cycling star Femke Van den Driessche pulled out of the last lap of a race in January, organizers discovered her bike had parts that didn't belong: a hidden motor and battery inside the seat tube, controlled by a Bluetooth switch inside the handlebars.

It's the first known case of "mechanical doping" in cycling history, and Wednesday marks the first punishment. The 19-year-old has been stripped of her titles, fined a sum of 20,000 Swiss francs (roughly $20,000) and banned from competing in the sport for six years.

In January, Van den Driessche pleaded that the bike wasn't hers but rather an identical one that belonged to a friend. Though the friend confirmed that, it may not have had any bearing on the sentence.

The offending bicycle was discovered using a magnetic resonance scanner, which the Union Cycliste Internationale governing body intends to use heavily at future cycling events.