French veteran racer defends his use of mechanical doping

The French veteran racer caught with a rudimentary form of mechanical doping at a local race in the Dordogne region has played down the seriousness of his cheating, claiming he decided to cheat after suffering with a sciatic nerve problem in his right leg.

French police seized the bike and the veteran rider was questioned on Sunday following a race in Saint-Michel-de-Double, near Bordeaux. He was competing in a race for veterans and juniors, with just 16 riders in action.

"I tried and I lost," the 43 year-old told radio station France Bleu.

"I don't sell drugs and I didn't kill a child, I put a motor in my bike. I'll serve as an example but I think it will do good to cycling because I am not the only one doing it."

According to L'Equipe, who revealed the identity of the rider and attended a press conference held by police in Perigueux, the veteran used the bike fitted with a hidden motor five times in recent weeks, earning around €500 in prize money thanks to his success. He reportedly bought the rudimentary downtube motor from a French website and fitted it to a frame bought online from China. He suggested that the French site sells between twenty and thirty motors a month.

L'Equipe reports that the rider told public prosecutor Jean-Francois Mailhes that he used mechanical doping to “compete equally” with his local rivals, suggesting that some of them use "various methods of doping".

"I did it because I've suffered with a herniated disc since March and I didn't ride my bike for three months. I tried to compete again but I had trouble because of sciatica in the right leg, I did it to have less trouble at the end of the race," France Bleu reports the veteran, who works as a wall plasterer, as saying.

"I didn't want to be a champion of the Dordogne, to win all the races, it was just to feel good again. I am at the end of my career, I do not want to compete any more. I want to enjoy life, my wife and of my daughter on weekends."

The veteran was placed under investigation by French police and could be charged with sporting fraud due to the prize money he earned while using the mechanical doping in his bike. He is also facing a lengthy ban from competition.

More on this story:

Bassons blocks his escape

He was caught after a tip off from other riders, with police and representatives from the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD), including former professional rider Christophe Bassons, involved in discovering the hidden motor. Bassons actually drove after the veteran and blocked his escape when he quit the race early. Bassons is famous for his stance against doping in the peloton in the nineties and for being bullied by Lance Armstrong when he spoke out.

"I'll serve as an example but I think it'll be good for cycling because I am not the only one doing it," the veteran rider argued to France Bleu. "If it can allow young kids who want to win not to be beaten by people who use this cheat, then so much the better."

This is the second reported case of mechanical doping among veteran racers this year. An Italian rider was caught in the summer with a similar, rudimentary device in a race near Brescia.

Belgian cyclo-cross racer Femke Van den Driessche was caught with a hidden motor in a bike at the 2016 Cyclo-cross World Championships. She was subsequently banned for six years.

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.

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