A 53-year-old Italian amateur cyclist was caught using a hidden motor at an event in Bedizzole, near Brescia on Saturday. According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, the motor was detected after the organiser used a thermal camera during the event to scan suspicious bikes.
The race was organised under the auspices of the Centro Sportivo Italiano, an amateur sports body affiliated to the Italian Olympic Committee. Emiliano Scalfi, the vice-president of the CSI in the province of Brescia, intimated that the body had acted on a tip-off and decided to deploy a heat gun.
"We had some precise information and we proceeded accordingly," Scalfi told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "When we looked, we saw that in the seat tube of one rider it looked as though there was a fire."
The rider in question placed third in the race, and after the event, he was asked to bring his bike – an Argon 18, according to La Gazzetta – to the commissaires for further inspection.
"We invited the rider to go with two commissaires to an authorised centre to check the bike, but at that point, he admitted his guilt," Scalfi said. "Inside the bike, he had a motor."
The incident is the second confirmed instance of mechanical doping – or technological fraud, as the UCI rulebook calls it – in a race after Femke Van Den Driessche was discovered to have had a bike containing a motor at the 2016 Cyclo-cross World Championships. Van Den Driessche was later banned for six years and fined 20,000 Swiss Francs by the UCI.
As in the Van Den Driessche case, the motor discovered on Saturday was hidden in the seat tube of the rider's bike. Reports over the past three years have suggested that the technology has grown ever more sophisticated, however, with powerful motors now capable of being hidden in rear wheels. A Stade 2 report last year suggested that the technology had been used in the professional peloton, though as yet, no top-level rider has been found guilty of technological fraud.
The UCI's current bike testing regimen includes the scanning of frames and wheels with an iPad app, but no cases of mechanical doping have been detected. On the past two Tours de France, a motorbike bearing a thermal imaging camera was occasionally deployed, but no instances of mechanical doping were reported.
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