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UCI to pay whistleblowers for motor doping tip-offs at Tour de France
Cycling Sport

UCI to pay whistleblowers for motor doping tip-offs at Tour de France

The head of world cycling’s governing body has revealed his organisation will pay whistleblowers to come forward with evidence of hidden motors being used in the Tour de France and other major races. Hidden motors and electromagnetic wheels, costing about £200,000, are suspected to have been used in the professional peloton for several years.

David Lappartient, the president of the UCI, supported by the former US Homeland Security investigator Nick Raudenski, the UCI’s new head of the fight against technological fraud, is ramping up efforts to detect cheats.

“We will pay if it’s a case,” he said. “This is a way to show that we really take this seriously.”

The Frenchman told the podcast Ghost in the Machine: “The worst thing for the UCI would be if we are informed of a case of ­technological fraud and we do nothing. Then it will not only destroy cycling, but the ­institution itself.

“We can’t be an institution that says: ‘OK, this doesn’t exist and we won’t spend a lot of energy on this.’ I believe that with new technologies, with engines becoming smaller and smaller, maybe less easy to detect, we have to invest more, in the ­technology and also on investigation.”

The first high-profile case of motor doping occurred in 2016 at the world cyclo-cross championships, when Femke Van den Driessche’s hidden motor was caught by a magnetic tablet screening process. However, increasing numbers of amateur race organisers are now finding riders using concealed motors.

“It’s better than nothing,” Lappartient said of the tablet screening process, “but it’s not consistent enough. You can cheat even with a tablet. I don’t trust that the tablets are strong enough to fight against technological fraud.”

There has long been speculation, and allegations made against some top riders, that motors have been used. “We regained ­credibility after 20 years of Armstrong,” ­Lappartient said. “It took us a long time. ­Tomorrow, if we have a case of cheating with a motor in the bike – sorry, but it will destroy our sport.”

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Unusual bike changes at key moments of major races, including the Tour de France, have also ­triggered suspicion. “I want to be sure the bike that will be tested at the end [of the race] is the bike that has been used,” Lappartient said. “It seems to me that the process is not 100% secure.

“Sometimes you don’t know why they change their bike at 10k [to go to the finish]. I want them [cheats] to be 100% sure that we will catch them. We are not afraid to catch somebody.”

Raudenski’s history as a criminal investigator will also beef up the UCI’s mission to stamp out technological fraud. “They’re not going to do the same thing they did 10 years ago, the same motor Femke used, for example,” the American said. “They’re going to advance and continue to develop, so if we say that ‘we’re on to this or we’re only looking for this area,’ you’re playing into their hands.

“It’s the age-old cat and mouse game that we always had, whether it’s doping, crime or finding technological fraud. We’re always going to be looking for those changes and how they’re trying to cheat and beat the system.”

The UCI announced this week that a commissaire will check all bikes at the start of every Tour stage, using magnetic tablets. Post-race checks, using X-ray inspection technology and other tools, will be carried out on bikes used by the stage winner, the classification leaders, randomly selected riders and any rider who “gives rise to suspicion”. If necessary, bikes will be dismantled.

Source: theguardian.com