Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport has described a motor hidden in the seat tube and bottom bracket as ‘old doping’ suggesting that special wheels, able to produce 20-60 watts via electromagnetics and costing 200,000 Euro, are the most sophisticated form of mechanical doping currently in use in cycling.
The UCI confirmed during the cyclo-cross World Championships in Zolder this weekend that they had discovered the first ever case of ‘technological fraud’. The 19-year-old Belgian Femke Van den Driessche claimed that the bike belonged to a friend and had been mistakenly prepared, and taken to the race pits by her mechanic.
Motorised doping has been a topic of discussion and accusation since 2010. The regulations on technological doping were brought into effect last January and could see a rider given a minimum suspension of six months and a fine of anything between 20,000 and 200,000 Swiss Francs. The UCI has introduced bike checks for the World Championships, the same as those that have been done in road racing over the past season.
Gazzetta dello Sport gave the story a full page in Monday’s newspaper, with a so-called ‘guru of the sector’ saying: “You can do more miracles with electricity than chemistry, it’s also less damaging to your health.”
Journalist Claudio Ghisalberti has an excellent understanding of bike technology and performance. His source explains in detail how motors are fitted to bikes. The newspaper describes the use of electromagnetic wheels as the ‘new frontier’ of technological doping.
“A motor hidden in the seat tube is old stuff, almost artisan. It’s been overtaken, it’s a poor man’s doping,” Ghisalberti writes. “The new frontier is far more technologically advanced and ten times as expensive. It’s in the rear wheel: it costs 200,000 Euros, and there’s a waiting list of six months. The first type uses a motor to turn the cranks; the second is electromagnetic.”
There have already been claims that motors have been used to win Italian sportive events, where former professionals and local amateurs often ride to secure media coverage, small sponsorship and bragging rights.
“I’ve sold 1,200 [of the old system] in Italy in the last few years. I can only laugh when I read the Gran Fondo results, I could rewrite almost all of them,” Gazzetta dello Sport quotes its ‘Mister X’ source as saying.
The source explains how clients buy complete bikes, often via an intermediary.
“The carbon fibre frame is opened, the motor fitted, and then the frame is closed up and repaired, painted and voila’… Of course there a risk a small defect can create a weak point and the frame opens up again leading to the rider crashing on their knees.”
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Gazzetta used a graphic of a wheel to show how electric wires are hidden in a deep section carbon fiber wheel to create an electromagnetic source of between 20-60 watts, suggesting the power produced by the wheels is enough to “transform an average level professional rider into a phenomenon.’
There were suspicions and reports that electromagnetic wheels were being used last season but they were never proven or discovered.
“It’s such a perfect system that I’m sure some riders don’t know they’re using it. They just think they’ve had a great day,” Gazzetta dello Sport’s source claimed.
Suspicions of mechanical doping have circulated since 2010, but the source claims they were used much sooner and that he has informed the UCI. He also has a possible solution.
“Starting from 2010? No, much longer and I’ve worked for some great riders,” the source is reported as saying.
“Some time ago, I also spoke to people in Aigle. I think you only need to study the exploits of some riders to see who uses a motor. That’s why I suggested inserting power data in the Biological Passport.”