According to French satirical magazine Le Canard Enchaîné, two highly respected magistrates have opened an investigation into alleged mechanical doping in cycling.
The weekly magazine claims that financial magistrates Claire Thépaut and Serge Tournaire were appointed last summer after a preliminary investigation to look at a possible plot "put together at the highest level" that has "benefited big-name riders, allowing them to take advantage of the latest technological advances in the field of electric motors".
The investigation is also reported to be looking at "links between international teams, private companies and cycling's highest authorities". It suggests that "the 'extraterrestrial' performances on some climbs have lead to doubts: have they gone beyond the 'biological doping' that has been used in the peloton for more than a century."
Le Canard Enchaîné article – published on the front page of the magazine on Wednesday, has been reported widely in France. The two financial magistrates are apparently supported by the financial crimes division of the French police force.
Cyclingnews contacted the UCI for comment on Wednesday, and the governing body welcomed the new information.
"The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) takes note of the information published today in Le Canard Enchaîné reporting that an investigation is underway in France in the context of the fight against technological fraud. We welcome any assistance that could be brought to us in this field, which is one of the key priorities of the UCI President's mandate, and are available to provide any help necessary to the competent jurisdictions," read a statement.
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The UCI has carried thousands of checks against mechanical doping using a simple tablet device that detects magnetic fields. However there have been reports of the use of hidden magnetic wheels and shielding technology that makes it difficult to detect mechanical doping with the tablet.
There have three confirmed cases of mechanical doping. In 2016, Belgian under 23 rider Femke Van den Driessche was caught with a rudimentary hidden motor in her bike at the World Cyclo-Cross Championships and was given a six-year ban. In October local French racer Cyril Fontayne was caught using a bike equipped with a motor during a minor race near Périgueux. In Italy another veteran rider was reported to have been caught with a similar device. Both are yet to be sentenced.
New UCI President David Lappartient has promised a crackdown on mechanical doping after doubts were raised about the efficiency of the UCI's magnetic tablets. He said that heat guns and x-rays will be used alongside the UCI's tablet device at future professional races. He is expected to present his new strategy to fight mechanical doping in the New Year.
- Mechanical doping inventor says UCI obstructed police attempts to find cheaters at this year's Tour de France - October 13, 2016
- Mechanical doping inventor promises major revelation in January - December 16, 2016
- CBS 60 Minutes investigates mechanical doping in professional cycling - December 28, 2016
- Tour de France to continue thermal imaging checks for mechanical doping - January 17, 2017
- CBS 60 minutes to broadcast investigation into mechanical doping on Sunday - January 27, 2017
- Claims of mechanical doping at the Tour de France in CBS 60 Minutes investigation - January 30, 2017
- Bruyneel blasts LeMond for 'obsession' with Armstrong and mechanical doping - February 8, 2017
- 53-year-old amateur rider caught using hidden motor at Italian race - July 30, 2017
- Italian amateur denies using mechanical doping - July 31, 2017
- Report: Four ways to hide motor doping in a race bike - August 1, 2017
- Doubts raised over effectiveness of UCI tests for mechanical doping - September 3, 2017
- UCI's mechanical doping tests called into question - Video - September 4, 2017
- UCI defends mechanical doping testing procedure - September 4, 2017
- French veteran rider reportedly caught using mechanical doping - October 2, 2017
- French veteran racer defends his use of mechanical doping - October 3, 2017
- Madiot: Lappartient must follow through on mechanical doping promises - October 3, 2017
- Lappartient: I need to be sure there's no mechanical doping - October 20, 2017
- Lappartient pledges more stringent testing against mechanical doping - November 7, 2017
- Gaimon calls Cancellara mechanical doping accusations a 'red herring' - November 8, 2017
- UCI to investigate Gaimon's Cancellara mechanical doping accusations - November 9, 2017