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USA Cycling tested for mechanical doping at national championships, found none

An image from the Corriere della Sera report on mechanical doping

An image from the Corriere della Sera report on mechanical doping (Image credit: Corriere della Sera)

USA Cycling announced today that it partnered with FLIR Systems, the world's leading thermal imaging manufacturer, to check for potential mechanical doping at the US professional road championships last month, but uncovered no evidence of illegal motors being used.

"Like all cheating, we take mechanical doping very seriously," said USA Cycling Technical Director Chuck Hodge. "To ensure a level playing field in this crucial event, we teamed with FLIR Systems to use thermal cameras to monitor bikes in the US professional road races."

The US governing body used the FLIR T640 thermal imaging camera in the professional men’s and women’s races on May 28 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, according to Tuesday's announcement.

"The cameras detect heat and surface temperature that is emitted by people, objects and materials," according to USA Cycling's announcement. "Both races were filmed with the FLIR T640 during critical points of the race and in locations where motors were likely to be used. These images were reviewed for any suspicious heat signatures. No illegal components were found at the event."

USA Cycling said it will be utilizing this and other technologies in the future to detect potential instances of mechanical doping.

Femke Van den Driessche is the first rider to be banned for mechanical doping after a motor was discovered in one of her pit bikes at the U23 women's event at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Heusden-Zolder in January.

The use of motors has been rumoured since 2010, when the UCI first began checking bikes for them. A report in the Italian Gazzetta dello Sport earlier this year hinted that cheaters have moved on from motors hidden in frames and have begun employing expensive 'maglev' technology, using magnets in rims and frame to help propel the bike forward.

Subsequent reports suggested that the UCI's method of detection is inefficient, and that thermal imaging would be more accurate in detecting motors.

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