Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has called for ‘the most severe’ punishments for riders who put a motor in their bike in races.
His comments come after a French television report claimed that seven riders used motors at two major Italian races this season, spotted with heat sensors.
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Prudhomme says that after all the work people involved in cycling have done to return the sport to credibility after decades of doping problems, this latest scandal has come as a blow.
“After doping, this is the reality we face,” Prudhomme told La Derniere Heure. “Two steps forward, three steps back.
“It took many years and a lot of effort [to move away from a doping culture], and yet, all is not eradicated; for cycling again become a sport that can be considered like any other and this is the new [scandal] that hits us.
“Motors [in bikes] are no longer a rumour, they exist. We must fight together, not against each other.”
He added: “We have to defend the vast majority of riders and we have to take radical measures, the most severe ones possible.”
In 2015, the UCI introduced sanctions of a minimum six-month ban and a fine of up to one million Swiss Francs for those found guilty of technological fraud.