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Cyclist banned for 6 years for cheating with hidden motor

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AIGLE, Switzerland — Caught using a hidden motor at a world championship race, cyclo-cross rider Femke Van Den Driessche of Belgium has been banned from cycling for six years.

The sanction imposed Tuesday by the International Cycling Union is a first using its rules on technological fraud.

“This case is a major victory for the UCI and all those fans, riders and teams who want to be assured that we will keep this form of cheating out of our sport,” UCI president Brian Cookson said in a statement.

The UCI banned Van Den Driessche through Oct. 10, 2021, stripped her of the Under-23 European title she won last November and fined her 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,500).

She must return all prize money and trophies, including her Belgian national title, won since Oct. 11, the UCI disciplinary tribunal ruled.

The 19-year-old rider had said she would skip her disciplinary hearing at the UCI’s Swiss offices and retire from racing.

The motor was found using magnetic resonance scans of bikes in the pits area at the women’s world under-23 cyclo-cross race in Belgium in January.

“The motor was a Vivax which was concealed along with a battery in the seat-tube,” the UCI said Tuesday. “It was controlled by a Bluetooth switch installed underneath the handlebar tape.

“(T)his new method of testing has proven in trials to be extremely effective in locating hidden motors or other forms of technological fraud as it quickly detects motors, magnetic fields and solid objects concealed in a frame or components,” the UCI said.

The ruling followed 10 days after a French broadcaster and Italian newspaper alleged it used thermal cameras to detect suspected motors in bikes in two men’s road races in March.

Cookson said last week the claims were based on “inconclusive” evidence, and expressed confidence in the UCI’s detection methods.

World champ Peter Sagan to race in Tour Down Under

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ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) Three-time world road race champion Peter Sagan of Slovakia has confirmed he will compete in the Tour Down Under in January, the opening World Tour event of the season.

Sagan won the world title last month for the third straight year, becoming the first cyclist to do so. He competed in the Tour Down Under for the first time last year, finishing second on three stages behind Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan.

Sagan, who rides for the BORA-hansgrohe team, said the six-stage Tour Down Under is “the perfect start to the UCI World Tour season each year … a challenging and tough course, warm weather and the passionate fans that cheer for us day in day out no matter what.”

Former Olympic cycling champ fired after positive drug test

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SANTA ROSA, Calif. (AP) Former Olympic road cycling champion Samuel Sanchez, who returned a positive doping test in August, had his B-sample confirmed Wednesday and was promptly fired by the BMC Racing Team.

Sanchez’s out-of-competition test revealed growth hormone-releasing peptide 2, or GHRP-2, a drug that increases a body’s level of growth hormone. Several cyclists have tested positive for the drug, among them Italian rider Stefano Pirazzi, who was given a four-year ban earlier this week.

The U.S.-based BMC Team said in a statement Wednesday that it was adhering to its zero-tolerance policy toward doping by terminating the Spaniard’s contract “with immediate effect.”

The 39-year-old Sanchez, who had been provisionally suspended, won gold at the 2008 Beijing Games.