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French probe into mechanical doping shelved after no evidence found

Three-year investigation examined possibility of technological fraud at top levels of sport

An investigation by two leading magistrates in France into mechanical doping in cycling has been closed after they found no evidence of riders cheating by using hidden motors.

> Top magistrates in France reportedly investigating motor doping

The investigation was launched in 2017 by Claire Thépaut and Serge Tournaire, members of a specialist judicial unit based in Paris that had been set up in 2014 to investigate high-profile cases related to fraud and corruption.

At the time, it was reported that the probe would concentrate o the highest levels of the sport amid suspicions that some “big-name riders” were using motors hidden in the frame of their bike.

However, L’Equipe reports that the investigation was shelved earlier this year with no evidence found of what the UCI officially calls “technological fraud.”

The governing body’s current president, David Lappartient made fighting motor doping a main issue in his successful election campaign in 2017.

The previous year, a hidden motor had been found in a spare bike prepared for Belgian under-23 rider Femke van Den Driessche at the 2016 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Zolder.

She subsequently received a six-year ban in what remains the only confirmed case of mechanical doping at a high-profile event.

After defeating Brian Cookson to win the UCI presidency, Lappartient said that discovery of a leading professional cyclist using a hidden motor would be “a disaster for the sport.”

The UCI has continued to test for their use, including through using a tablet app to test for magnetic waves, as well as using x-ray machines and thermal imaging cameras to try and detect them.

Away from top-level racing, there have been some cases of riders in France and Italy being caught using illegal mechanical assistance.

In 2018, a Category 3 racer in France received a five-year ban for using a motor concealed in his bike, Cyril Fontaine had been targeted for testing after a dramatic improvement in his results.

> Mechanical doping: French cyclist who used hidden motor in Cat-3 race receives five-year ban

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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srchar | 4 years ago

The pro teams can't game the rules on motor doping, like they do with biological doping. You can't sneak in under the limit by having 20% of an electric motor fitted to your bike. If caught, the evidence is incontrovertible and it would be the end of any pro team. They're never, ever going to try it.

Now, the advantage given to the lead rider by the television motorbike? That's a form of motor doping that needs to be addressed.


Mungecrundle | 4 years ago

Some of the modifications can be very subtle, requiring an experienced eye to spot.

fenix | 4 years ago

Zero surprise here. You'd never get away with it on a team. Privateers yes - but team mates would notice that someone's now putting out 100s of Watts than before.

OnTheRopes replied to fenix | 4 years ago

Never get away with it on a team? I wonder if Lance's team noticed he was putting out 100's of whats more than before?

It doesn't have to be 100's of watts anyway, 5 watts can make a difference in a Time Trial

EddyBerckx replied to OnTheRopes | 4 years ago
1 like

Famously, they were in on it!!

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