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UCI to use new testing methods to combat ‘mechanical doping’

Cycling's governing body promises new methods to combat the threat of 'mechanized doping' within racing

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The UCI’s strong-arm tactics against technological fraud continued throughout the 2019 Giro d’Italia, and the cycling governing body revealed new methods will soon be introduced to combat “mechanical doping.”

The UCI confirmed Thursday that 1,312 bike tests were conducted throughout the three-week Giro, including 113 tests using the mobile X-ray machine that is set up at each day’s finish line. Between four to 12 bikes were X-rayed each day, including the bikes ridden by the stage winner, the overall GC leader, and randomly selected riders. The UCI said testing did not reveal any signs of motorized or technologically-assisted bikes.

“Since last year, we have at our disposal a robust set of methods to counter the risks of technological fraud that allows us to check bikes at the start and finish lines,” said UCI president David Lappartient in a press release.

Throughout the Giro, cycling’s governing body scanned and X-rayed dozens of bikes per stage. Commissaires were spotted using tablets for magnetic scanning before and after each stage as well as X-raying selected bikes at the finish line.

Read our feature story about the UCI’s plan to combat motorized cheating. 

Worries of “motor doping” date back nearly a decade. Rumors and reports of riders using motors hidden inside bike frames or wheels were unproven until the shocking revelation in 2016 that a bike confiscated in the pit area of cyclo-cross belonging to a U23 Belgian rider was found to have a motor.

Since then, a new fleet of sanctions and rules, and enhanced testing methods have been introduced to combat the threat of technological fraud.

The UCI also confirmed Thursday it will introduce a tracker by 2020 to be mounted on bikes that can detect hidden motors at any point throughout a race. The technology, which was already tested during the 2018 Tour de France, would close the window from the start to the finish of each competition when bikes or wheels could be manipulated during the course of a race.

The UCI also plans to introduce an updated version of its magnetic scanning tablets, which it claims will enhance the ability to detect the presence of motors hidden inside a bike.

“Research projects are continuing and shall enable us to be equipped with new technologies that can monitor equipment anytime during the competitions,” Lappartient said. “We’re aiming to ensure that the cycling community has confidence in the performances of our athletes.”

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