The UCI has expressed “full confidence” in its staff following a report on French television channel Stade 2 on Sunday evening which showed that UCI technical manager Mark Barfield had alerted Harry Gibbings of the e-bike manufacturer Typhoon about a police investigation into the use of hidden motors on the 2015 Tour de France.
The UCI has consulted with Gibbings as part of its efforts to counteract mechanical doping, and the Typhoon CEO was on hand in Aigle in May when Barfield made a presentation to selected media of the UCI’s current testing procedures.
Gibbings confirmed to Cyclingnews on Monday that he had received an email from Barfield during last year’s Tour saying: “I’m sitting with French police who believe an engineer ‘Hungarian’ is visiting TDF today to sell a bike and visit teams, could this be your guy???”
The ‘Hungarian’ in question is understood to be the engineer Stefano Varjas, who worked for Typhoon until December of last year and spoke of the most recent advances in mechanical doping in an interview with Stade 2 in April. Gibbings told Cyclingnews that Varjas denied being on the Tour when he contacted him, though receipts he later submitted for expenses purposes apparently showed that he was in France at the time.
The UCI issued a brief statement on Monday morning in response to the Stade 2 report. Although neither Gibbings nor Barfield were named directly, the statement defended the UCI’s consultations on mechanical doping, offered its tacit support to Barfield, and pledged an investigation into the matter.
“The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has consulted experts from a wide variety of backgrounds – including university academics, mechanical, electronic and software engineers, and bike suppliers – in the process of developing an effective method of detecting technological fraud,” the statement read.
“The person interviewed in the Stade 2 report [Gibbings – ed.] was among those consulted by the UCI in order to fully understand the technologies available and hence how to detect cases of technological fraud.
“The UCI has full confidence in its staff employed in this area. It will investigate whether emails sent in 2015 to an external consultant were passed on to a third party and used in a way that no-one intended.”
Cyclingnews was unable to reach Barfield for comment on Monday morning. The Briton had confirmed to Stade 2’s reporter Thierry Vildary that he had sent the email to Gibbings and said that Gibbings had in turn provided information to the police.
Police from OCLAESP, France’s Central Office Against Environmental and Public Health Violations, told Stade 2 that they had not received any such information. Speaking to Cyclingnews on Monday, Gibbings said that he was “going to try and get in contact with the police that they were talking to".