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World's first eSports pro cycling team sacks rider for cheating on Zwift

“The team was left with a hard but simple decision to end the relationship,” says Canyon Esports

Canyon Esports, which bills itself as “the world's first professional eRacing team,” has sacked a rider after he was found to have falsified his data on Zwift.

The team announced on 8 February that it had terminated German rider Philipp Diegner’s contract.

But, as DC Rainmaker reports, no-one appears to have noticed the announcement at the time it was made and the story only emerged once Zwift itself announced its sanction.

Diegner is the fifth rider to have been handed a ban by Zwift after investigation of data relating to races ridden on the platform in recent months.

> Zwift hands two more bans to riders for falsifying race data

In its statement, his team said: “This decision has been made during an investigation by ZADA [Zwift Accuracy and Data Analysis] following Race No. 3 of ZRL Premier League.

“Evidence was brought to light that was previously unknown to Canyon Esports and its management staff.

“As per the team's internal protocols, a decision was made to terminate the rider's contract and part ways.

“Philipp had previously been suspended from race duties while the team and ZADA's investigation was ongoing. At the time of publishing this notice, ZADA and Zwift have made no further announcement other than the disqualification from Race 3.”

The team added: “Canyon Esports had been investigating in good faith whether the reported irregularities had occurred involuntarily during the exporting process.

“However, before we could conclude that investigation we were presented with additional evidence which undermined the necessity to continue. Following further conversations with the rider and ZADA, the team was left with a hard but simple decision to end the relationship.”

Rhys Howell, team manager, said: “We are an incredibly close-knit team, so losing a rider is like losing a limb. Personally, I can only describe my feelings as heartbroken.

“However, I did not hesitate for one second to make the necessary decision to terminate our agreement with the rider in question.

“Our team is more than any single rider alone and we believe firmly in transparency and a clean sport. There can be no deviations from that belief.

“Our sport relies on trust and a team like ours is founded upon it. We will now look at how we can avoid such situations in the future and I have reiterated to all our senior and development riders that they can and should always come to me first if they are struggling.

“I hope this episode will be but a lone footnote in the exciting story of our team,” he added.

Zwift’s decision in the case, which outlines the reasons for the ban imposed on Diegner, can be found here.

The most high profile instance to date of a cyclist being sanctioned for cheating on Zwift relates to Cameron Jeffers, winner of the inaugural British eRacing national championships, the first time any national federation had staged such an event.

> Zwift national champion stripped of title because he didn’t earn the ‘Tron’ bike he rode within the game

Following the men’s race at the BT Studios at London’s Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park, Jeffers was found to have manipulated data prior to the event to unlock a Zwift Concept Z1 bike – popularly known as a “Tron” bike – to give himself an advantage over his competitors.

He was stripped of his title, fined £250 and handed a six-month suspension from all racing, with the title awarded to James Phillips, who came second on the day.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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