UCI blocked police checks for hidden motors at Tour de France, claims expert

Hungarian Istvan Varjas says the governing body prevented police from carrying out further checks on bikes for hidden motors

Cycling’s governing body says that it “carried out extensive bike checks” at the Tour de France this summer, but motorised bike expert Istvan Varjas says that it blocked more precise controls.

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Hungarian Istvan Varjas has been designing battery powered bikes for 10 years and has become the de facto motor guru. He said that the UCI could be “accomplices” with their actions this July.

“This summer we had a very strange experience in the Tour de France,” Varjas said in an Off the Ball interview. “I was there with the LeMonds, with Kathy and Greg. They came, the Gendarmerie, to interrogate me.

“I asked them if they really wanted to grab the people using the motors. They said, ‘Yes, we are ready to fight against it. We want to grab the people who use it.’ So I just told them what they need to do. They said they would do it. They went to make this kind of check, but the UCI refused to allow them to check the bikes.”

Varjas first helped reporters shed light on the motor technology, or what has been dubbed as motorised doping, in 2010. At that time, some claimed Fabian Cancellara rode to his Classics victories with a motor after his strange hand movements and fast accelerations, such as when he left rival Tom Boonen behind on the Kapelmuur in 2010.

This summer, Varjas explained to newspaper Corriere della Sera how electromagnetic wheels function. Reportedly, seat-tube motors generate 250 watts and electromagnetic wheels generates 60.

“If the organisation is not allowing to check the bikes…you can say every bad thing about me, but I have nothing to do with these cheaters,” Varjas added.

“The police tried to do this, but from the UCI they were not allowed to do it. They said it was not necessary.”

“This is the scandal, not who uses or doesn’t use it. There is an organisation who has to stop this problem and they don’t do it. I think they are accomplices or something like this. I can’t accuse, but this happened this summer.”

The UCI said in an e-mail this morning that it “condemns the accusations.”

It wrote, “The UCI carried out extensive bike checks using various detection methods in close collaboration with race organiser, French authorities and French law enforcement.”

This summer ahead of the Tour, the governing body found itself in hot water over motor checks. France’s Stade 2 television show released a chain of e-mails that showed contact between the UCI’s Mark Barfield and Stefano Varjas. It suggested that the UCI tipped off one of the main motor suppliers of an ongoing police investigation in the 2015 Tour.

The show revealed how Barfield e-mailed Harry Gibbings, director of e-bike maker Typhoon about police plans to investigate suspected motorised cheating in the Tour.

The same Off the Ball radio show last week interviewed Lance Armstrong and asked him if he ever used motors when he was winning the Tour de France.

“Of course not,” Armstrong said. “In 1999, no one even knew you could put motor [in a bike]. Are you out of your mind?”