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The new magnetic tablet testing device used in professional cycling since January can “detect any form” of mechanical doping, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) said on Tuesday.
Both French and Italian media have reported this year that small motors are being used in the peloton, giving a small but hugely beneficial power boost. French television programme Stade 2 and Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera said that they used a thermal detector to spot what they believed to be hidden motors in riders’ bikes at the Strade Bianche race in March.
The UCI have quickly responded to those claims by detailing exactly how they are fighting to stamp out mechanical doping, amid accusations that they have not been taking the issue seriously enough. UCI president Brian Cookson, speaking three days before the start of the Giro d’Italia, said that the magnetic device is more efficient than using thermal images.
“This is something we’re taking very seriously,” he said. “There is a message to cheaters: if you use this method of cheating, we will catch you. “It can detect all kinds of technologies. We have a great method that I think is working.
The thermical images technology is not as reliable as the one we use.” Femke Van den Driessche became the first rider to be caught concealing a motor in her bike before the under-23 women’s cyclo-cross world championship race in February.
The 19-year-old Belgian was suspended for six years and subsequently retired after being found out by the new system, which uses a scanner to create a magnetic field, with the data sent back to the tablet. The tablet will then see if any motors, magnets or solid objects such as batteries are hidden in the frame or other parts of the bike, with the whole process usually taking less than a minute.
The UCI have also tested an X-ray system, but it proved to be ineffective due to the different shapes and densities of bike frames. Cookson declined to give details on the amount invested by the sport’s governing body into developing the magnetic system, but said it was a large sum, although less than “seven digits”. UCI technical director Mark Barfield said that 507 random checks were made during the Tour de Romandie, which was won by Nairo Quintana on Sunday, and that no technological fraud was detected.
“The professional teams want this control. We’ve had a good cooperation with the teams,” he added. This year, 274 tests were performed during the World Track Championships in London, 216 on the Tour of Flanders and 232 at the Paris-Roubaix. Barfield also claimed that by the end of the year between 10,000 and 12,000 tests would have been carried out at professional events.