Zwift has issued another ban to a rider for alleged data manipulation, after investigating previous results following irregularities in his power data.
Philipp Diegner, who raced for the Canyon Esports team, has been suspended from Zwift e-sports events for six months by the Zwift Performance Verification Board.
The verification board launched an investigation into Diegner’s previous performances after Zwift’s automated systems flagged the rider’s power data from the Zwift Racing League (Season 2) Men’s Race #3 on January 25, 2021, suggesting his power files may have been edited.
Upon further analysis, the Zwift verification board said the power values submitted were two per cent higher than those originally recorded for the race, which prompted the board to investigate past results.
Diegner’s Zwift racing team Canyon Esports announced that the rider had been dropped from the team as a result.
Team manager Rhys Howell said: “We are an incredibly close-knit team, so losing a rider is like losing a limb. Personally, I can only describe my feelings as heartbroken. However, I did not hesitate for one second to make the necessary decision to terminate our agreement with the rider in question.
“Our team is more than any single rider alone and we believe firmly in transparency and a clean sport.
“There can be no deviations from that belief. Our sport relies on trust and a team like ours is founded upon it. We will now look at how we can avoid such situations in the future and I have reiterated to all our senior and development riders that they can and should always come to me first if they are struggling. I hope this episode will be but a lone footnote in the exciting story of our team.”
The team had launched its own investigation into the allegations, but added that they were presented with additional evidence which led to them terminating Diegner’s contract without further investigation.
Diegner’s contract was terminated before he had been officially banned by Zwift.
In high-level Zwift races, athletes are required to record their power data via two separate power meters in order to verify their performance – a process known as “dual-recording.”
After Zwift’s automated systems flagged Diegner’s performance, Zwift also developed a new method of analysing historic data files and performed a “forensic analysis” of all files previously submitted by the rider.
The Zwift board said this analysis uncovered four other occasions where there was evidence that power data had been edited, including three races and a calibration test for the Zwift Racing League.
Following these discoveries, the Zwift board said it contacted the rider who denied editing the file, but then admitted changing the power data before submitting it to Zwift.
A statement from the board, published on February 22, said: “The Performance Verification Board consider that it is beyond reasonable doubt that the rider intentionally manipulated their data. Pursuant to Appendix B of the Zwift Cycling Esports Rules and Regulations, the Board has therefore decided that a Tier 3 sanction (“Bringing the sport into disrepute” – “Fabrication or modification of any data”) shall be applied, and the rider shall receive a six month suspension from Zwift Cycling Esports events.”
Designer’s suspension was backdated to the date of the race, so his ban will run from January 25, 2021 to July 24.
The board also decided that the rider shall be retrospectively disqualified from all events from seasons one and two of the Zwift Racing League.
Deigner is the fourth rider currently serving a ban from Zwift racing for alleged data manipulation.
Cycling Weekly approached Diegner for comment, but had not received a response at the time of publication.