Zwift rider banned, then unbanned, for publishing 'unnoticeable' weight-doping hack

Luciano Pollastri, a contributor to ZwiftInsider, published details of a hack believed to have existed for years

(Image credit: Getty)

What was meant to be a weekend of virtual cycling celebration at the eSports world championships was marred by the revelation a Zwift user was banned for publishing details of an "unlimited and unnoticeable" weight-doping hack.

On the eve of competition this weekend just gone, ZwiftInsider contributor Luciano Pollastri unveiled a simple hack you can use on the platform that can make any rider a virtual Tadej Pogačar - practically unbeatable.

While Zwift's rules outlaw entering an inaccurate weight in order to increase a rider's power to weight ratio, which is how the platform calculates a rider's speed, this hack allows an individual to temporarily drop their weight whenever they want without Zwift noticing.

ZwiftInsider claim Zwift has known about the hack since January 2021 but is yet to implement a patch to thwart it.

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Zwift responded to Pollastri's post by giving him a 30-day 'shadow ban', meaning he can still use Zwift but his results won't count, he won't be visible to other users and also can't interact with anyone else on the platform.

However, in a measure aimed to de-escalate the situation, Zwift CEO Eric Min reversed the decision to shadow ban Pollastri, issuing a statement in the comments of a post on the ZwiftInsider forum.

"Having been brought up to speed, it is clear to me that this situation could have been better handled by both parties," Min said. 

"The performance increasing exploit was until now, relatively unknown both within Zwift and outside, but this is no excuse to not have addressed it. The exploit is detectable, and we have the ability to look back and identify those to have used it. That said, our priority is not to look back, but to look forward, and fix this as a matter of priority in one of the upcoming game releases.

"For this reason, we have taken the decision to lift the 30-Day shadow ban issued to Luciano. For clarity, a shadow ban does not prevent a Zwifter from using Zwift, they simply do not show to others.

"Neither party had ill intent and I can only apologise to all involved, but in particular to Luciano himself. We have an obligation to the community to address exploits on the platform and will fix this particular exploit as a matter of priority."

Min went on to say he would prefer people to share information on potential bugs directly with Zwift but also that the company could do more to make this process easier and will therefore be introducing a bounty program to encourage users to highlight issues.

"It is important for us to uphold our terms of service as they exist to protect the enjoyment of the majority of Zwifters. Rather than share information on how to exploit a performance bug, we would always encourage members of the community to come forward to Zwift with performance exploits they find," Min explained. 

"The process on how to bring such issues to the attention of Zwift hasn’t always been clear, so in order to improve this, we plan to introduce a bug bounty program that will not only make it easier for Zwifters to highlight issues but will also reward them for doing so. We will need time to develop this program but will share information in due course."

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