A bike with a cleverly hidden motor, which was entered in a cycling championship race, could be the first official case of “Mechanical Doping.” The Belgian racer who was caught riding the bike has strongly claimed innocence though.
The competitive cycling world has long acknowledged that doping is a very common occurrence. However, in a first, a bike was found to house a very clever mechanical contraption, which could easily offer undue advantage to a cyclist during a race. This is the first time such a device is believed to have been found and investigators are baffled at the attempt to indulge in “Technological Fraud,” in a desperate attempt at staying ahead in a form of race that is more about the physical attributes of the racer, more than anything else.
Doping in sports, which test the physical endurance and the willingness to push oneself to the limit, is unfortunately a very common occurrence. With the ever increasing stakes, everyone is justifiably looking for an edge, but few are even willing to explore the illegal options, which are commonly considered as cheating and are likely to get you thrown out for good. Despite the low probability of continued success, quite a few athletes have, over the years, resorted to using multiple tricks and methods to stay ahead. Usually, the methods are more chemical and affect the biology of the athlete, but this is perhaps the first identified case of using mechanical contraptions to cheat.
A new method of doping was discovered during the Cyclo-Cross World Championship, a grueling cycling race that demands peak physical abilities and strong mental resolve to cycle through multiple terrains that keep changing quickly, forcing the rider to change strategy constantly. Riders are often required to swiftly dismount and carry their rides to navigate an obstacle and then quickly remount. Though the distances are quite short as compared to other traditional racing championships like Tour de France, they demand a lot from the competitors.
Gazzetta dello Sport presents the wheel-engine. Apparently, it's not very cheap. A wheel = 200.000 euros. pic.twitter.com/6SjZFwdGBg— Mihai Cazacu (@faustocoppi60) February 1, 2016
The method of doping is being called technological/mechanical doping, reported Ubergizmo. The racer, 19-year-old Van den Driessche, was riding a bike which contained a hidden motor within the frame of the cycle. The bike was seized by cycling authorities after Driessche was forced to pull out of the women’s under-23 race due to a mechanical problem. Speaking about the hidden motor, International Cycling Union (UCI) president Brian Cookson had the following to say.
“It’s absolutely clear that there was technological fraud. There was a concealed motor. I don’t think there are any secrets about that. Technological fraud is unacceptable. We want the minority who may consider cheating to know that, increasingly, there is no place to hide and sooner or later they will pay for the damage they’re causing to our sport.”
The UCI has scanned bikes at major competitions, including the Tour de France, in recent years amid rumors about cyclists using motors hidden in frames, reported Sky News. Given the technological advancements, it is relatively easy to conceal a high performance, but significantly miniaturized motor, within the hollow frame of the bike. Such products are legally sold to cycling enthusiasts across the word, who do not wish to continually pedal. Almost all such motors are powered by a battery pack that gets charged when the user pedals. In the racing events, using such a mechanized and powered cycle is considered illegal.
A visibly upset Van den Driessche strongly insists that she wasn’t aware of any motor hidden within the bike, reported Huffington Post. She maintains her innocence, stating that the bike wasn’t hers and belonged to a friend.
“The bike was not mine. I would never cheat it wasn’t my bike; it was my friend’s and was identical to mine. The bike looked identical to my own but belonged to my friend. This friend went around the course Saturday before dropping off the bike in the truck. A mechanic, thinking it was my bike, cleaned it and prepared it for my race. I’m aware I have a big problem. I have done nothing wrong.”
After the Lance Armstrong scandal, the cycling world has always been extra cautious. Though there have been suggestions of “mechanical doping” in the past, nothing had been proved in major competitions, until now.
[Photo by Yorick Jansens/Getty Images]