French police have closed their case into hidden motors within the peloton, having found no evidence of mechanical doping during the two-year investigation.
Femke Van den Driessche had been caught at the World Cyclocross Championships in 2016, the first high-level rider to ever test positive for having a bike with an engine in it, while a 42-year-old amateur was then caught in a smaller race in October 2017.
French prosecutors subsequently announced they would look into an alleged conspiracy involving “very notable riders” said to be using hidden motors, and investigating “links between international teams, private companies and cycling’s highest authorities”.
However, the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) has now closed the case, report l’Équipe, while the UCI has also concluded its partnership with the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), who had been developing miniature thermal scanners to detect motors.
These devices would have been fitted to each individual bike in a race, announced in 2018 as part of a range of new methods to combat mechanical doping by UCI President David Lappartient, yet the cost proved too expensive for the cycling governing body, and they will instead continue to use tablets to scan bikes.
The miniature devices had apparently caused a stir at the 2018 Tour de France after they detected a burst of energy from a rider’s pedals during the race, but it was a false alarm after a mechanical defect was the cause of the heat emanation that had been picked up.
During the investigation, French authorities interviewed the apparent inventor of the hidden motors, Istvan Varjas but did not hear from various senior members within the UCI. They also drafted in physiologist Pierre Sallet to help with the investigation, who drew up a report highlighting the 2018 Tour as a cause for concern, as well as criticising the UCI detection system.
Former Ag2r La Mondiale rider, Jean-Christophe Péraud, who finished second in the 2014 Tour de France, was appointed by Lappartient in 2017 to be the UCI’s ‘Manager of Equipment and the Fight against technological fraud’.
The Frenchman was also interviewed by investigators on the second rest day of the 2018 Tour in Carcassonne, telling authorities: “With 99 per cent certainty, there are no hidden motors in the peloton”.