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Mechanical doping: France to introduce sporting fraud law to criminalise motor cheats

Sports minister outlines steps taken to fight technological fraud ahead of Tour de France

France’s sports minister has said that the country plans to criminalise the use of hidden motors in bike races, with legislation due to go before parliament this autumn.

The news accompanied the official announcement yesterday of measures that will be implemented during this year’s Tour de France, which starts on Saturday, to try and detect hidden motors.

Those initiatives, revealed in the French press at the weekend, include magnetic scanners already used by the UCI, a thermal imaging camera that will be mounted on a motorbike during the race.

> Thermal imaging cameras to be used on Tour de France

A number of handheld, itself, high-resolution thermal imaging devices will also be used, on loan from France’s atomic energy commission.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, sports minister Thierry Braillard said that “like doping and fraud linked to sports betting, technological fraud is an attack on the integrity of sport.”

He also confirmed that he is “in favour of the creation of a crime of sporting fraud” to preserve that integrity.

The proposed legislation is currently being assessed by experts and will go before parliament in the autumn.

France was the first country to make doping a crime and under tougher sanctions introduced in 2008, those caught in possession of or trafficking doping products at sporting events can face a jail sentence.

So far, only one hidden motor has ever been found in competition, at the cyclo-cross world championships at the start of this year in a bike prepared for the Belgian under-23 rider, Femke Van Den Driessche.

Rumours of their use in some of the sport’s biggest races have persisted for a number of years, and in April Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme described them as the biggest challenge currently facing cycling.

He was at yesterday’s press conference alongside UCI president Brian Cookson, who insisted those seeking to cheat using a concealed motor will be caught and punished accordingly.

In a press release, Cookson said: “Since the beginning of the year, we are sending a clear message which is that there is literally nowhere to hide for anyone foolish enough to attempt to cheat in this way.

“A modified bike is extremely easy to detect with our scanners and we will continue to deploy them extensively throughout the Tour and the rest of the season,” he added.

> Mechanical doping - full coverage

Simon joined road.cc 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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