La Gazzetta dello Sport has revealed further details on the case of alleged mechanical doping at a veterans race in Italy, confirming that the bike is a counterfeit copy of an Argon 18 model, and revealing the four ways that it is possible to obtain and hide a motor in a race bike.
The Italian sports newspaper obtained a photo of the bike with the alleged motor hidden inside, matching the attached race number with that of the 53 year-old Brescia tiler Alessandro Andreoli.
The bike appears to be an Argon 18 as used by the Astana team. However after carefully studying the shapes of the rear triangle and headset, the Canadian brand confirmed to La Gazzetta dello Sport that the bike was a counterfeit that had been fitted with Argon 18 decals. Argon 18 intimated it would take legal action.
"Argon 18 is a worldwide company with a proud history and we work hard every day to produce quality products that are sold worldwide. To safeguard the good name of our company we will take any necessary legal action against the athlete and anyone responsible for this very serious matter," Gervais Rioux, founder and president of Argon 18 Bikes said in a statement published by several Italian media.
According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Andreoli, who was caught with the bike on Saturday after organisers used a heat gun, claimed he bought the bike from someone in Tuscany who he had met out on the road.
"I don't remember his name or his phone number. We met out on the road, I liked the bike, he asked a great price and so I bought it," Andreoli told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
The Italian newspaper suggests that the Tuscan coast is one of the hot spots for the sale of bikes fitted with hidden motors, with a former professional licence holder reportedly acting as a dealer with one of the leading producers of mechanical doping devices from eastern Europe.
Four ways to hide mechanical doping in a race bike
La Gazzetta dello Sport suggests there are four ways to ensure a mechanical doping device is hidden in a bike: Buy a bike that has been made to contain a hidden motor; adapt your own bike by carefully cutting the carbon fibre structure in the bottom bracket; adapt a stolen bike; or buy a counterfeit frame made in Asia that has been designed to host a hidden motor. It seems that these bikes even include a space in the down tube to help divert a video probe and so avoid detection.
Andreoli denied any wrong doing in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport, suggesting that whoever tipped-off the race organiser is envious of his success and personal income.
"They wanted to control my bike, the judges kept it for an hour and a half while I was getting changed, I had things to do. Who knows what they did. They claim there was a hidden motor but they didn't find anything, the wheels didn't turn," he said.
"They say I had a hidden motor. If it's true then the riders who finished with me had motors too. I've seen a lot of people finish ahead of me without them suffering.
"I had to go to a wedding and it was getting late. I didn't admit anything. They looked for the buttons but didn't find anything, the only buttons I have are to change gears."
Andreoli's local team has denied any involvement and has suggested it will also take legal action. La Gazzetta dello Sport suggests that Italian police will also investigate, with Andreoli facing a disciplinary hearing a long ban from racing.
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