Femke Van den Driessche and Cheating at Sports

femke-van-den-dreisscheThere’s an absolutely fascinating sports case taking place at the World Championship Cyclo-Cross event where a woman named Femke Van den Driessche was found to have a motor in her bicycle. I’ve written in a general way about Performance Enhancing Drugs in the past and also about mechanical aid in regards to Oscar Pistorious and this latest incident is but an extension of those blogs.

It’s clear that Van den Driessche was on a bike that had a motor in it. It is clear people will cheat to get ahead at sports. This cannot be denied. What I want to talk about today is the impact such engineering is going to have on the sporting world and how we deal with it.

Soon replacement parts in humans will be able to perform more ably than their originals. Motors are being installed that cannot be spotted without a time-consuming inspections. Drugs that are undetectable enhance human performance. Someone will find away to make a shoe that allows a player to jump higher or run faster. Gloves will be created that track a ball in flight. The only end to the improvements that can be made is human imagination.

No sport and no player will be above suspicion. It is not just at the highest level of professional sports, your child might be beaten out on the local cross-country team by another kid who is using a technological advantage. All incredible performance will generate skepticism. Any improvement in skills will cause suspicion. It is endless and it is inevitable.

The recourse to all this is largely futile. For every bike inspected for a motor there will be an engineer figuring out a way to do it and avoid the inspection. For every PED test created to spot a drug there will be a method found to mask it.

Does this mean we should stop trying to ferret out those who break the rules? Should we just dispense with rules altogether and accept that such methods are a fact of sport?

I think these are good questions because I believe sport itself is important and a force of good in this world.

It’s good to encourage human achievement and sport is where this is often most visibly on display. I find few things in life more exhilarating than well-played sporting endeavors and astounding athletic achievement. It is disheartening to think such performances came about because one team or athlete used something to give them an advantage.

At work such improvement is considered a good thing but not so in sports. In work if you complete a job more quickly your receive rewards, but in sport everyone knows that a motor can propel a bicycle faster and a computer can play better than an unaided athlete. The point is to do so without such aid against your peers.

Therefore I think it’s a good idea to continue to fight against those who do not play by the rules. It is true that we cannot catch all the cheaters nor prevent all the cheating. It is true that every great performance in the future will be subject to innuendo, speculation, and outright accusations.

What else is there to do?

Tom Liberman

19 thoughts on “Femke Van den Driessche and Cheating at Sports

        • Hello, Michel,

          Thank you for the comment but I think you are mistaken in your understanding of what happened. She was riding the bike that had the motor in it. She crashed and wires were visible at which point she was pulled over and taken out of the race. Later she claimed that it was a friend’s bike and she grabbed the wrong one when she entered the race.


          • Hey Tom
            i think you are wrong. she did the race with a proper bike, and had to quit in the last round. anyway, they found a bile with a motor between all her bikes. and now she was stating, it’s a friends bike. true or not, i just want to make sure, you know the real facts.

          • Hello, Jurgen,

            I am aware that you desperately want to believe Femke’s story but I assure you that I am aware of the facts.

            1. She had a crash and people saw exposed wires on the damaged bike she was riding.
            2. People reported this to the officials.
            3. The official went to her stable and found a bike that had been damaged in a fall, was showing exposed wires, and upon examination had a motor in it.
            4. Femke claims that the damaged bike was not the bike she was riding, she was riding another bike, despite the fact no other damaged bike was found.

            You can choose to believe what you want, Jurgen. No one can change that. I would argue that if you choose to believe obvious falsehoods it won’t get you very far in life.

            Loyalty is a good thing. Refusing to face reality, not so much. I said much the same thing to Lance Armstrong fans over the years and was called all sorts of names. I’m pleased with my view of reality.

            Have a great day,


          • Hi Tom,

            once and for all, she did NOT (and I repeat: NOT) ride the bike with the motor in it. This was even confirmed by the race management. Why are you still insisting she did when it was officially confirmed that she didn’t?

          • So, it’s unimportant what the race management says in an official statement as long as there’s one source claiming otherwise? Wow, way to go, Tom.

    • I don’t think I’m in favor of ending her career but I do think some punishment is in order. We all make mistakes.

      Thank you for the comment, Clement!


    • I gather you think because there are not images it didn’t happen, but no one seems to be denying that a motor was found in the bike. Video evidence from one of her other races looks suspicious as well. The Wiki article on the incident is a good place to start, jon.

      Thanks for the comment.


  1. I think that anyone deliberately cheating should be punished. Sharapova is not a case, Van den Driessche and Armstrong are. My problem is with the ban on EPO; yes, taking EPO gives a boost to the haematopoietic system, but so do training at altitude or sleeping in a hypobaric oxygen tent.

    • Thank you for the comment, Nigel

      Cheating using drugs or mechanical aid is certainly a complex issue not easily addressed. The goal, of course, is to have each athlete succeed on their own merits.


    • Hi, Billy.

      Perfectly stated. I can add no more.

      Thank you for the comment and the support because it’s been mostly grief for me on this one!


  2. You’re citing wih kih pedia? Seriously? I don’t care if she raced that moped or not- don’t cite wikipedia, that’s idiotic. It’s not 1998 anymore, I was sure that even toothless inbred West Virginians knew by now not to cite a wiki article. Pics or don’t waste your time writing anything other than “I believe fourth-hand accounts and toilet-stall-wall-literature”.

    Did you see the wires? No. Did you see the crash and see an absence of wires? Obviously not. What are you left with to write about? Many other things.

  3. Pingback: Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act Insanity - Tom Liberman

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