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Two high-level French judges are investigating an alleged “high-level” conspiracy of technological fraud. That’s according to reports in a French satirical newspaper in what’s apparently no joke.
Le Canard Enchaîné reported this week that French judges are following a money trail that could reveal “links between international teams, private companies, and cycling’s highest authorities.”
The weekly paper claimed the judges are investigating an alleged plot that involves “high-level” riders who have taken advantage of “the latest technological advances in the field of electronic motors” hidden inside bikes.
There was a dearth of details in the report, with no names or hints of who might be involved.
What’s most significant, however, about the reported inquiry is the involvement of law enforcement officials. Several major doping scandals in cycling — including the Festina Affair, Operación Puerto, and the Lance Armstrong scandal — were blown open not by anti-doping authorities, but through involvement from police and courts.
Rumors of motorized cheating date back nearly a decade. The issue came storming back into the frame last month with the release of Phil Gaimon’s latest book, in which he repeated unsubstantiated rumors that Fabian Cancellara might have used hidden motors during the spring classics.
Newly elected UCI president David Lappartient pushed the issue to the forefront of his campaign platform. He now promises to hold a more rigorous investigation into the alleged abuses.
The UCI has been testing for mechanized assistance for several years, and recently has been using tablets designed to pick up on electrical charges coming from batteries in thousands of controls. Some allege those efforts are failing to detect motors inside bikes. Others, however, insist the use of electrical motors in elite racing is pure fantasy.
In 2016, a Belgian rider Femke Van den Driessche was handed a six-year racing ban after a bike with a motor was found inside her pit area during the women’s U23 cyclocross worlds. Another case this fall involved a Cat. 3 rider in France, who was using a bicycle with a motor hidden inside the frame.