New UCI president David Lappartient put a new twist on the debate over radio earpieces on riders, suggesting in an interview with Het Laatste Nieuws that allowing teams to communicate with riders during races could lead to race fixing motivated by illegal sports betting.
Lappartient said he intends to ban earpieces in the next World Championships and voiced issues with power meters, saying they have made races "sterile".
"And then you have something else with the earpieces, they make cycling very sensitive to online betting," Lappartient said to Het Laatste Nieuws. "You can communicate directly with the rider in the race. Officially, the connection goes from a team car to a rider. But technologically, there is nothing that prevents me or you from calling the wearer of the yellow jersey during a stage of the Tour, right? "
When asked if he thought someone could suggest a rider like Chris Froome might be told to ride faster or slower because someone bet on the race, Lappartient said it is possible, and the UCI has to anticipate such possibilities.
"Sports betting is like an iceberg. Ninety percent of the bets are illegal and happen below the waterline. That's how it is in football, tennis and handball. I do not want to get to a day when cycling, once we have clambered from the valley of doping, and the fight against mechanical fraud has been successfully carried out, is undermined by corruption and gambling scandals. The UCI does not have a single article in its regulations. Gambling is prohibited is there. But it happens."
Lappartient also has ideas to help combat mechanical fraud and doping, with new controls for motors due to be in place by the start of the 2018 road season. He also intends to work with the police to find fraud and wants mechanical doping to be against the law.
"You are cheating against those who are playing fair. And the money you earn from it is at the expense of the earnings of the others. That is theft.
"I do not know whether technological fraud exists in the peloton. But I want to be sure," Lappartient said.
"I am assuming that technological fraud has been committed in the past. And I am cautious about how it is now. If we are saddled with a scandal of mechanical fraud tomorrow, the disaster will not be overlooked."
When it comes to doping with drugs rather than motors, Lappartient claimed, "The situation is better than ever. But we should not let our attention lapse. Nowhere is the fight against doping as fiercely waged as in cycling. One-third of worldwide controls for the biological passport are for cycling. There was a time when it was said that every rider was doped. Now doping is an exception."
But the use of the painkiller Tramadol and corticosteroids is still allowed under the WADA rules, and Lappartient says that while the UCI does not have the power to ban the use of the drugs, they do have avenues to prevent riders from competing while using them.
"We need to act urgently against the misuse of cortisone. I think that WADA is dragging their heels. They cannot tell me that riders who use cortisone are performing less well. If they did, they wouldn't use it. Cortisone is not on the banned list, there is no sanction against its misuse. But it does stop the body from producing its own cortisol if external cortisone is administered. That is a problem for the health of the rider. If I am well informed, a lack of cortisol is even lethal. I say: too little endogenous cortisol equals no racing. That's how the MPCC sees it. But since not every team is a member of the MPCC, I would like for the UCI to impose that ban."
Lappartient says he could use the same method to impose a start ban on any riders found with traces of Tramadol in their system, and hopes to do so beginning in 2019.
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