Mechanical doping: UCI to introduce new methods to find hidden motors

UCI inspectors to use new equipment to quickly check large numbers of bikes for hidden motors at races

The UCI is looking at new measures of detection in the fight against mechanical doping, according to President Brian Cookson.

The governing body introduced bike checks in 2015 and is now “actively” considering improvements that can be made following the discovery of a motor in the bike of an under-23 competitor at the cyclo-cross world championships last month.

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“Clearly this is something that is a threat to our sport and we are looking now at trialling new methods of detection that are less invasive, so you don’t have to take the bike apart, so we can check more bikes before the start,” Cookson said today.

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“If it becomes necessary to check every single bike for every single rider for every single race and all the spare bikes as well then maybe we will have to do that. These are processes and procedures that we are considering very actively now.”

Motorised bikes were briefly referenced in the independent CIRC report that was published last year and investigated doping and previous UCI governance.

“This particular issue was taken seriously, especially by top riders, and was not dismissed as being isolated,” a part of the report read.

However, it was the discovery by UCI inspectors of a motor in the bike of 19-year-old racer Femke Van den Driessche at the world titles in Zolder last month that has put the issue firmly in the spotlight.

Femke Van Den Driessche

Femke Van Den Driessche

The case is set to be presented to a disciplinary commission after Van den Driessche denied wrongdoing and said the bike belonged to Nico Van Muylder.

Cookson said about 60 bikes across the championships were inspected for motors.

“Did we expect to find somebody in that category with an electric motor? No, of course we didn’t but all the categories are equally important and they all were tested,” he said.

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“The technology that we’re developing is quite economical, it’s not expensive and it’s easy to handle. It allows us, as we saw at the cyclo-cross world championships, to do a large number of bikes to see if there is anything suspicious and then to test the bikes where there is something suspicious.”

Cookson was speaking from stage two of the Tour of Qatar, which doubles as a test event for the 2016 UCI Road World Championships in Doha.