Riders in the professional peloton have told UCI President David Lappartient they feel there is a performance gap between riders, and willingly inform cycling's governing body on rumoured new doping techniques as well as nefarious goings-on that they hear and see.
"We have a few. On what they hear or what they see," Lappartient told DirectVelo (opens in new tab) on whether riders ever get in contact regarding doping within the sport. "There may be rumors of new techniques. They don't really know. Some riders have the impression that there is a gap. They ask themselves questions."
Lappartient says cycling "is no longer in the questioning phase" of whether doping goes on, and that cheating is "human nature", which necessitates vigilance.
The fight is never definitely won, he continues, but the ban on Tramadol is progress and when corticosteroids are outlawed from January 1, 2022, that will be another step forward.
"You still have to keep your eyes open," Lappartient admitted. "There are some noises coming from the peloton. There were a lot of rumours during the Tour de France. There are a lot of riders who grab us. We have to stay awake on this."
As for micro-dosing, especially that of EPO, Lappartient explains that some riders receive three controls in a day "not that they are targeted but because they are the best" and that they "carry out checks within the limits of what science can detect".
"I'm not going to say I'm not unhappy that there aren't any positive controls...but I'd rather not have [any], than have [some]," Lappartient elaborated. "I dare believe it's because people don't dope...we also carried out hyper-targeted, close checks...Tadej Pogačar sometimes had three checks on the same day at the Tour de France. It could be six o'clock in the morning, before the start, at the finish...we still can't control during the race either. We do the maximum. But if the laboratories have nothing..."
As for mechanical doping, checks will continue, with new detection technology and the understanding of methods being developed and discovered, including bike motors that can be triggered remotely, with no 'on' button present on the bike.
"We're still looking. We will not give up on the principle. We've also developed new technology," Lappartient said. "We had our big spoke machine but it's complicated, it's a trailer, you have to lug it around. Now we have an x-ray system that is portable. It was used for the first time at the Olympic Games. You can take it almost in hand luggage. It is much easier to transport. We will be able to target even more things.
"The systems work. I asked that we go as far as the physical dismantling of the bikes, sometimes. We physically dismantled bicycles as in the Tour de France 2020 on two occasions, in the time trial of the Planche des Belles Filles and the climb of the Col de la Loze. We did this year [too]. We don't forbid ourselves [from doing that]. So far, we haven't found anything.
"One could very well imagine that some systems are triggered remotely, without it being on the bike. Today, there are not especially motors that do not emit magnetic fields. We are essentially in the discovery of these fields. We must always stay awake on these subjects. By nature, man is limitless in the imagination to cheat."
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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