Cycling cheats warned against fraudulent use of hidden motors

AIGLE (Switzerland) • Cheats will not prosper, was the message of International Cycling Union (UCI) president Brian Cookson on Tuesday as the governing body stepped up its fight against mechanical fraud by showcasing a new method to detect hidden motors in bikes.

Belgian rider Femke van den Driessche was handed a six-year ban for mechanical doping after it was proved that her spare bike contained a motor at the cyclocross Under-23 world championship in January.

Last month, television station France 2, in collaboration with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, claimed that hidden motors were used in the Strade Bianche one-day race and the Coppi e Bartali race in Italy this season.

France 2 and Corriere della Sera used thermal imaging to support their claims that motors had been concealed, although they said they could not prove cheating beyond all reasonable doubt.

The UCI's technical manager, Mark Barfield, said at the governing body's headquarters that its method to detect motors uses a magnetic resonance test involving an iPad and an adapter.

The system measures resistance in the magnetic field to give an indication if a motor is present.

Cookson says the technology will help it root out cheats.

"So the message that I want to give out to anyone who is considering cheating in this way is that we will find a way and we will catch you sooner or later and the chances are, it will be sooner," he said.

"The very first time we deployed this equipment, we caught somebody and that's a real message I think to the cheats."

He added that the UCI's technology was a better way of trapping cheats than using thermal imaging devices.

"The system using thermal imaging cameras is not as reliable and not as foolproof as the system that we've developed," he said. "But we can look at using thermal imaging to supplement our system as well and we will maybe do that from time to time."

According to Barfield, 507 random checks were made during the Tour de Romandie, which was won by Nairo Quintana on Sunday, and that no technological fraud was detected.

He added the UCI would be stepping up its testing regimen.

"So far this year we've tested 2,500 bicycles," he said. "I would imagine that number will be somewhere between 10,000 and 12,000 bikes by the end of the year."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2016, with the headline 'Cycling cheats warned against fraudulent use of hidden motors'. Print Edition | Subscribe