Bike manufacturer to sue Belgian rider over motor use
PARIS (AP) Italian manufacturer Wilier Triestina says it will sue the Belgian cyclist who used a motor on her bike at the cyclo-cross world championships in the latest scandal to rock the sport.
Managing director Andrea Gastaldello said he was ''stunned'' by the news that Femke Van den Driessche competed in the under-23 race over the weekend 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,'' the executive wrote in a statement.
Van den Driessche, who became the first cyclist caught for technological doping in a major competition, denied any wrongdoing, claiming she mistakenly used a friend's bike identical to hers without knowing it had been equipped with a motor.
One of the favorites, she withdrew from the race won by Britain's Evie Richards because of a mechanical problem.
The UCI, or Union Cycliste Internationale, cycling's governing body, has seized her bike for further investigation. President Brian Cookson said: ''It's absolutely clear there was technological fraud.''
Under UCI's technological fraud rules, Van den Driessche is facing a six-month suspension and a fine of 20,000 to 200,000 Swiss francs (($19,575 to $195,750) while the Belgian national team could be fined as much as 1 million Swiss francs ($978,000).
''There was a concealed motor, I don't think there is any secret about that,'' Cookson said at a news conference. ''But other than that, how that happened, what the circumstances were, that will all be passed to the disciplinary commission.''
After years of controversy marred by doping scandals and the tainted reign of Lance Armstrong, the UCI has been tackling the motors issue seriously.
First speculation of technological doping emerged in 2010 when Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara was forced to deny he won Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders with the help of an electric bike after a video appeared to show him pushing a button on the handlebars during both races.
Bike checks were quickly introduced and have since been carried out by the UCI at cycling's most prestigious events including the Tour de France.
''We've heard some stories for a long time now about the possibility of this,'' Cookson said. ''We have been alive to a potential way that people might cheat and we have been testing a number of bikes and a number of events for several months.''
He said it remains to be seen whether motorized doping was widespread but sent a clear message to potential cheaters.
''Technological fraud is unacceptable. We want the minority who may consider cheating to know that, increasingly,'' Cookson wrote on Twitter. ''There is no place to hide and sooner or later they will pay for the damage they're causing to our sport.''
Road riders competing at the Grand Prix La Marseillaise in southern France expressed their surprise after Cookson confirmed the cheating.
''This is really sad for our sport,'' AG2R-La Mondiale leader Romain Bardet was quoted as saying by L'Equipe newspaper. ''Hopefully this is just an isolated case orchestrated by eccentric people. It's really unfortunate because it proves that the previous polemics weren't just incidental.''