Cycling hit by claims that riders are using motors
Calls for an investigation into ‘bike doping’ a month before the Tour de France
As if the sport of cycling didn't have enough problems with doping there are now rumours that some riders are cheating - by attaching motors to their bikes.
A month before the start of the Tour de France the director of the Cofidis team Alain Deloeil has called on cycling authorities to carry out tests on the bikes to ensure that they have not been fitted with hidden motors.
"Cycling is about men riding their bikes with their physical strength. If you add a motor, we'll soon be riding the 24 Hours of Le Mans Moto," he said, as he urged the International Cycling Union (UCI) to carry out checks at this year's Tour.
The 'bike doping' claims may sound ridiculous, but they are gathering pace and earlier this week Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara - nicknamed Spartacus - was forced to deny rumours that he won Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders this year while riding an electric bike.
Former rider Davide Cassani has appeared on Italian TV demonstrating how such bikes can work. He told Italian broadcaster RAI: "With this bike with engine I might win a Giro [d'Italia] stage although I am 50 years old."
Cassani explained how the souped-up road bike was fitted with a tiny motor linked to the pedals and fuelled by a battery hidden in the frame. When he pushed a button on the handlebars the pedals began rotating. Asked if such a device had been used in professional races Cassani said he had been told it had.
Chris Boardman, who is in charge of bike development for the all-conquering Team GB cycling team, claims he warned the UCI about electric bikes last year. He said the secret motors could offer riders a 40 per cent boost in pedal power.
"Its potential is obvious," he said. "You could use it when you are trying to establish a break or on the crux of the last climb of the day or maybe in the latter stages of a long time-trial.
"There is not a shred of doubt that the technology exists to cheat in this way and that a rider could get a definite return from such cheating. With little buttons controlling the gears these days I suspect it would also be pretty simple to disguise."
Boardman says the only way to make sure bikes are not fitted with hidden engines is to dismantle or x-ray them before each stage.
But commentators agree that the risks of mechanical doping are far greater than those associated with the traditional kind. They say that any manufacturer caught adding motors to their machines would be thrown out of the sport and would never be allowed back.
The UCI has said it will launch an inquiry into the claims of 'bike doping' on Monday. ·
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