Femke Van den Driessche Quits Cyclocross Following Technical Fraud Accusations
According to Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, on the eve of her hearing for technical fraud in the 2016 U23 Women Cyclocross World Championships, Femke Van den Driessche has chosen to leave the sport rather than defend herself at a hearing where she would have faced some rather damning evidence.
Van den Driessche originally faced at least a six-month ban and a fine of 18,000CHF, but the UCI more recently hinted it would pursue a lifetime ban and a fine of at least 50,000CHF. Additionally, the hearing would have been held in Switzerland, where the UCI is based.
On top of the likely fine, travel expenses and lawyer fees, Van den Driessche would also face some steep court costs. Quoted in Het Niewsblad this morning, Van den Driessche simply stated, “I just can not pay.” Her lawyer, Kristof Saedeleer goes on to say, “Femke is 19 and an amateur athlete who won some prize[s] just this year. She does not have the same resources as Alberto Contador at the time.”
The entire ‘technical fraud’ story has included some interesting and shady twists and turns, but Van den Driessche’s family has stood by her, even with her decision to abandon the sport. In the same Het Niewsblad article today, her brother Niels (who is currently serving a suspension for being pinned with performance enhancing drugs in his system) essentially lashed out at the UCI and its hearing as a witch hunt. “The UCI is playing dirty. We do not even get the chance to defend our genteel. The UCI just wants Femke nailed to the pillory.”
In her statement about leaving the sport, Femke was a bit more diplomatic and frank, ultimately taking responsibility. “After consulting with lawyers and my family, I decided to put my defense at the trial in Aigle [Switzerland] to a stop. The cost of that meeting in Switzerland will be too high for me. The acquittal is impossible, that was my bike in material zone. I thank all the people who supported me and still support 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 it.”
What are your thoughts on Van den Driessche’s decision to leave the sport?