Mark Barfield, the UCI's technical chief, has said that motorcycles would need to be in close proximity with riders to even have a chance of working


Safety concerns are one of the main reasons for not using thermal imaging cameras to detect motors in bikes according to the man charged with stamping out motorised doping from cycling. Mark Barfield, the UCI‘s Technical Manager, says that thermal imaging cameras would require more motorbikes to be in close proximity to the peloton, potentially putting riders at risk.

“In order to deploy a test using thermal imaging, we would need to put motorcycles alongside the peloton, not behind, not in front, but alongside”, said Barfield. “We would need to have a few motorcycles out there to conduct the test, which is clearly a safety concern.”

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“As soon as you start to talk about increasing the number of motorcycles in a bike race, it’s not a popular subject.”

Barfield’s comments come after a French TV report used to thermal imaging cameras to claim that riders were using motors in Strade Bianche and Coppi e Bartali, as well as a number of incidents involving riders colliding with motorcycles in races, including Antoine Demoitié who died after being struck by a race motorcycle during Ghent-Wevelgem in March.

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Apart from the problem of rider safety, Barfield also restated the other reasons why the UCI decided against using thermal imaging cameras to detect motors in bikes.

“If you have one rider with a motor in a bike then it’s very easy to use thermal imaging camera. But if you have 150, 200, or even 10 riders then it becomes a much more difficult challenge. So yes thermal imaging works, but it’s not the most consistent and effective method for detecting motors under certain circumstances.

“It also requires a clear line of sight, so the camera must be able to see the area where the motor is installed in order for it to be able to work. This is complicated by riders’ limbs, other bikes, and anything else in the race environment.

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“Thermal imaging cameras can also be confused by environmental heat and by other heat sources on the bike, such as the rider and mechanical friction. And it can be difficult if not impossible to identify a rider and isolate them from the image from the thermal imaging camera. It would require additional cameras or other methods of identification.”

Barfield also said that the UCI’s current method of testing for motors, which uses an iPad and an adaptor that creates a structured magnetic field to detect solid areas of magnetic resistance within the frame or wheels, would soon be made available to national federations, raising the possibility that checks could soon take place in national or even regional races.

  • Alan Pro

    I will take my Therm-App camera. No one will be ablt to tell 🙂

  • Shinichi0831

    There are corrupt people in every governing body. Doesn’t matter whether it’s the government or the UCI, there will always be corrupt officials.

  • Jay

    Isn’t this simply a matter of checking all the bikes including the spares and having all the ‘cleaned’ bikes stowed in a secured and manned area prior to race starts? Why do they need more motorbikes to screen again during a race? They also said it’s difficult for thermal imaging to work if the motors aren’t turned on, then just do thorough visual checks for buttons on handlebars or downtubes or simply ask the mechanic to remove the seatpost and look down the seat tube! How difficult is it to check several hundred bikes using a team of say 12 inspectors? Not rocket science. Really, the UCI is still being hampered by the bureaucracy past down by previous generations of ill governance. Worst yet I dare to ask if there are still corrupt people working in the UCI.