‘Motorised doping’ crisis turns to powered wheels

The UCI confirmed at the weekend it had discovered a motor in the seat tube of a bike used by Belgium's Femke van den Driessche

Less than two days after cycling was rocked by the unprecedented discovery of a motor in a competitor’s bike frame, the sport has now been hit by claims that a previously unknown, undetected and considerably more advanced form of so-called motorised doping exists:  “doctored” bike wheels.

Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport reported that the wheels can produce between 20 and 60 watts, a significant power increase for riders, via electromagnetics.

The UCI, cycling’s governing body, confirmed at the weekend it had discovered a motor in the seat tube of a bike used by Femke van den Driessche, of Belgium, at the World Cyclo-Cross Championships. It is the first confirmed case of motorised doping.

However, La Gazzetta dello Sport dismisses such motors as “old school” and suggests new, advanced – so far undetected – motorised doping technology hidden in wheels “is enough to transform an average professional into a phenomenon”. The paper quotes an unnamed expert in motorised doping who said: “It’s such a perfect system that I’m sure some riders don’t know they’re using it. They just think they’ve had a great day.”

The expert claims he has sold 1,200 motors in Italy and that motorised doping began before 2010.

Cycling great Eddy Merckx has called for lifetime bans for motorised dopers, rather than the usual four-year maximum sentence for conventional dopers. “That’s nothing to do with cycling any more. That’s motorcycling,” he said. 

The price tag of the doctored wheels is estimated at €200,000 (£150,000) – 10 times more expensive than a motor.

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