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Usually when we think of performance enhancing in professional sports we think of. But there are other, more externalised approaches too. Equipment tweaks in things like or can potentially do just as much as doping to affect outcomes.
But a new trend in professional cycling involves some hilariously blatant scamming: riders are installing electric motors on their bikes.
On Sunday, journalists at Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera and French TV network Stade 2 published evidence allegingin Italy last month. The International Cycling Union (UCI) has been using iPads to check bikes for electromagnetic irregularities, but the journalists used thermal cameras to collect additional data.
Speculation about tiny, battery-powered motors in the sport started around 2010. At the time, a spokesperson for the ICU: “Maybe we are facing a general problem. You never know with technology.”
In January, these concerns finally bore out when the“technological fraud”. It discovered that 19-year-old Belgian competitor Femke Van den Driessche had a hidden electric motor on the bike she used in an off-road cyclo-cross competition. “We believe that it was indeed technological doping,” Brian Cookson.
The Corriere della Sera and Stade 2 journalists allege that five riders were using electric motors similar to Van den Driessche’s, and two others had magnetic propulsion systems on their rear wheels. These electromagnetic wheels can add 20 to 60 watts of power on top of someone’s pedalling.
Hidden motors can add, though probably in practice. A February article about the technologies : “You can do more miracles with electricity than chemistry.”
Electromagnetic wheel systems are somewhat mysterious and don’t seem to be sold openly, but electric motors are a consumer product marketed for the average rider. Who wouldn’t want an extra boost on the way to work or the grocery store?
So-called “e-bikes” like thecost about $2000 to $3000 and proudly advertise their motors. But conversion kits like the and can be in a similar price range or higher, especially if you are paying for special low-profile options like Vivax’s “Invisible Performance Package”.
Vivaxin October that it hadn’t been contacted by the UCI and that its customers were mainly people over 60 who were trying to keep up with riding buddies.
Though electromagnetic wheels are no better, you can at least see how an athlete could justify them as a sort of equipment upgrade. Concealed motors, though, are just flat-out ridiculous. You’re basically doing a biking competition on a motorcycle.
The UCI clearly needs to continue improving its bike-scanning tech. Meanwhile, athletes should stop cheating. Or at the very least have some dignity about keeping the techniques subtle.
This article was first published on
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