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Zwift hands two more bans to riders for falsifying race data

Six-month bans follow investigations following suspicions over their power values


Online cycling platform Zwift has handed out two more bans to cyclists for manipulating or falsifying data after participating in virtual races.

The Zwift Performance Verification Board, which investigates and rules on cases where tampering with data is suspected, has banned both riders from entering official Zwift eSports events for six months, with the decisions both relating to races that took place last month.

Antonina Reznikov was found to have submitted power values “32 per cent higher than the original recorded values” after taking part in the Zwift Racing League (Season 2) – Women’s Race #1 on 11 January, in which she finished fourth.

She was investigated after “Zwift’s automated systems identified that the dual-recorded data from the rider’s power meter may have been edited and warranted more detailed investigation.”

The 38 year old, who won the bronze medal in the road race at last year’s Israeli national championships and was third in the time trial in 2019, “initially denied editing the file,” according to the decision, but “eventually acknowledged that they had indeed changed their power data before submitting it to Zwift.”

In the case of Selma Trommer, who finished 10th in the road race at the German national championships last year, there were likewise suspicions that data from her “power meter may have been edited” after she finished sixth in the Zwift Racing League (Season 2) – Women’s Race #2 on 18 January.

“Detailed analysis by Zwift of the rider’s data identified that the power values submitted were 9 per cent higher than the originally recorded values,” the Zwift Performance Verification Board said in its decision.

“In order to give the rider the opportunity to put their side of the case forward, Zwift shared digital forensic evidence showing that the data submitted had been edited, and they were asked for their response. The rider gave multiple replies over the next 24 hours repeatedly denying that they had edited the file. Notably, at no point did the rider admit any fault, show any remorse or offer any plausible explanation as to how their file came to be edited.

“In parallel, the rider’s team manager offered their assistance in trying to understand how the data had been edited,” the decision continued.

“They noted that the rider had said that they had problems uploading the file to Garmin Connect and had used another application (Golden Cheetah) to import and export the files before sending them to Zwift.

“Zwift considered in detail the possibility that the files could have been edited by accident through the riders use of these applications. The fact however that all the power records in the rider’s data file had all been increased by a fixed percentage, precluded this possibility.

In conclusion, the decision said: “After extended correspondence, the rider eventually acknowledged both that the data had been edited, and that the principle of strict liability applied. The rider still did not however admit any personal fault, or offer any explanation as to how their file came to be edited.”

Last year, Zwift handed six month bans to two riders, Lizi Duncombe and Shanni Berger,m for similar violations while taking part in races on its platform.

> Zwift bans two riders for manipulating virtual race data

As countries around the world entered lockdown last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Zwifts popularity both for training and racing soared, with events hosted on the platform including virtual editions of the Tour of Flanders and the Tour de France.

In 2019, Cameron Jeffers was banned following his victory at the inaugural British eRacing national championships, which saw British Cycling become the first national federation worldwide to stage 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, he 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.

Jeffers 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 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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Organon | 3 years ago

Ha, video game drama.

wtjs | 3 years ago

I have no experience of these- can you just lie about your weight to increase your speed on the screen?

PRSboy replied to wtjs | 3 years ago

You can, but in 'proper' Zwift races you need to provide evidence of your weight and height. Arguably changing your height has more effect than changing weight. 

wtjs replied to PRSboy | 3 years ago

Thanks PRSBoy

Brauchsel | 3 years ago

Might be a stupid question, but what's the purpose of submitting manipulated power data? If you finish fourth, you finish fourth whether at 150W or 500W. Or is it done to cover for dodgy weight data?

wtjs replied to Brauchsel | 3 years ago

If you finish fourth, you finish fourth

Because it's only a pretend race, not a real one! The decision on 'position' is made on the basis of submitted data.

PRSboy replied to Brauchsel | 3 years ago

One might have increased the effective power output of the trainer, thus making your in-ride persona go quicker than you should. However, the data from the auxiliary power meter also needs to be increased to match, otherwise it's obvious you've juiced the trainer power output. 

ReadingTim | 3 years ago

I guess the irony of the name of the software used wasn't appreciated by either of the riders?!?

PRSboy | 3 years ago

I presume editing such data is not the work of a moment, nor that easy... who else is complicit in helping them cheat and should there not be some sanction for them if they are in a team, or representing athletes professionally?

shufflingb replied to PRSboy | 3 years ago
1 like

Afraid it can be done fairly easily - the various power file formats were never designed to be a secure or verifiable. So basic tinkering with them is technically pretty easy and Googling shows there are online tools to do so, e.g.

arckuk replied to shufflingb | 3 years ago
1 like

I know you weren't disparaging it, but fitfiletools is a really useful web site. I've used it a number of times for various reasons. One time my power meter was reading ~ 20% high (I'd just re-fitted it to the bike), so I took my fit file and adjusted it down so that my various x-minutes power bests weren't incorrect, whilst still keeping a number of segment PBs I'd got that ride. Other times, I've had my Garmin die during a commute, so copied and modified the fit file from the day before so that it could be used to keep my distances and training load closer to the correct values.

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