Journalistic Investigation Reveals Alleged Multiple Pro Cycling Cheating Cases

On February 1, Belgian under-23 cyclist Femke Van den Driessche was found to be using an electric motor in her bike at the cyclo-cross World Championships, which made her the first pro-cyclist found and proven guilty of using "technical doping."
Thermal camera view of cyclists 1 photo
Photo: Screenshot from YouTube
Since then, nothing much has happened. The UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) is now doing a lot more testing and it is scanning bikes more thoroughly before big races, but to no avail. It seems that either Femke's case was an isolated one or the rest of the cyclists who were doing it were too scared to continue after what happened.

It would appear that the UCI hasn't learnt anything from the Lance Armstrong case. The American rider said very clearly that the only reason he doped was because everybody else was doing it, so it was the only way to remain competitive. The playing field was tilted, and since the rest of the contenders weren't going to give up on using illegal substances, the only way to level it was by following suit.

For some reason, UCI believes the "technical doping" cases to be different. A recent investigation conducted by the well-known Italian publication "Corriere della Sera" and the French TV station "Televisions Stade 2" has revealed that things might not be as clean as the sport's governing body would like them to appear.

If the UCI is indeed trying to keep what's happening under wraps while trying to deal with it quietly, you could understand its reasons. It's only been a few years since cycling was hit by a major scandal, and so to have another one of the same nature and magnitude following so quickly would risk turning the sport into a farce.

But nothing's been proven yet, even though the two media outlets do make a very strong case for a relatively widespread use of "technical doping." To uncover this, they used thermal cameras disguised as regular TV cameras and filmed the riders during two races in Italy last month.

According to Fittish, they claim that five riders were using bottom bracket motors (the same as Femke), while two others had a more elaborate system using rear-wheel magnets. The first of these two methods is cheap ($10,000 is considered small change in what is otherwise a very expensive sport) and provides a substantial boost, but it's also pretty easy to discover (Van den Driessch can confirm that).

The second one is a lot harder to spot since it uses a series of neodymium batteries hidden inside the rear wheel and a coil underneath the seat. The latter generates a field that offers 60 extra watts of power to the rider. The whole system costs over $50,000, but it has the benefit of going completely under the radar for the current testing procedures.

The footage shows a clear hot zone in the bottom bracket just above the pedal's hub, which coincides with the place where an electric motor would be. Nobody seems to be able to provide an explanation as to what other cause such an intense heat patch in that area could have, but that doesn't mean there can't be one. When confronted with the video, the UCI president Brian Cookson expressed his concern, but said the proof wasn't enough to make any solid allegations.

He might be right, but it does raise some question marks over the efficiency of the current testing method that just can't be overlooked. Well, they can, but if they were, then it would indicate that somebody doesn't really want to solve this situation. And then we have a problem.

Below is the entire report made by Televisions Stade 2 (in French, auto-translated subtitles available), as well as a video of a rider falling while his bike's rear wheel continues to spin. The abnormal behavior of the bike takes the rider of the TV crew motorcycle by surprise, so he goes straight over it:

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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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