UCI to test thousands of race bicycles for hidden motors
AIGLE, Switzerland (AP) The International Cycling Union plans to test thousands of bicycles for hidden motors, including at the Tour de France and Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Around 2,500 bikes have been scanned since tests started in January, and the total could reach 12,000 this year, UCI technical manager Mark Barfield said on Tuesday.
Riders who switch bikes mid-race could be targeted on top of routine checks at team buses.
''It is something we are looking at, as well as testing bikes before and after the stage,'' said Barfield, who oversees a testing program which caught a teenage Belgian rider banned by the UCI last week for six years.
Demonstrating its testing technology at UCI headquarters, the governing body said the one hidden motor found in January was at the first event where magnetic resistance scans were used: The cyclo-cross world championships in Belgium.
Rumors of riders using motors have circulated for several years, and were fueled by a French broadcaster last month using thermal imagery.
The UCI insists its detection is more effective than ''flawed'' heat-seeking tests, which it says are only effective if bikes are filmed close up by motorcycles on the road.
The magnetic resistance test is done with a tablet computer using software developed with the UCI's help to scan a bike. It can detect motors, magnets and batteries in a bicycle's frame, wheel hubs and rims less than 30 seconds.
''This is something we believe is a serious threat to our sport and we are doing something about it,'' UCI President Brian Cookson said. ''We wanted to demonstrate absolutely that we have put a massive amount of resources into this.''
Cookson said the UCI would rely on intelligence as well as testing, and acknowledged that French TV reporters met in Hungary with an engineer who customizes bikes with motors.
''We are researching all of these possible directions about improving our intelligence. I don't want to say any more about that,'' Cookson said.
Barfield dismissed a widely alleged claim of suspected use of a motor, by former Olympic and world champion Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, at the one-day classics in 2010.
''Many people have said, `watch this video' or `see this,''' Barfield said. ''But you can't watch footage from today or the past and draw any conclusions from it.''
Cancellara strongly denied the allegations in 2010, describing them as ''outrageous.''
After decades of negative headlines about doping in cycling, Cookson said teams and riders support the new mechanical tests to show fans and sponsors the sport has integrity
''There's a message here to cheaters,'' Cookson said. ''If you are thinking of using this method, don't. Because we will catch you.''