What Is ‘Mechanical Doping’?

We’re here at the cyclocross world championships in Zolder. And as we’re speaking, the under 23 race is on, well underway just behind us. But news broke on Saturday afternoon, and Simon, I think we’d both agree, it wasn’t news that I would have ever expected to hear. The first ever case has been unravelled – still yet to find all the details, of mechanical doping. So Si, let’s just cut to the chase, let’s explain exactly what mechanical doping is. Well, as you said Matt, we don’t know exactly what is the case in this instance but it seems like a motor has been secreted in the seat tube of a bike. Now this is something that actually, any one of us can buy on the open market. There are a few examples out there. Perhaps most notably the Vivax company. The motor sits in the seat tube, it’s anchored in place, and then through a gear system it powers your bottom bracket. So your chainset essentially – if you took your feet of the pedals your chainset would still rotate. Now they claim that it would add 200 Watts. Now 200 Watts is massive isn’t it? That’s nuts, I mean, let’s put that into context: that’s the difference between a club rider being able to keep up with Chris Froome in the Tour de France. Something along those kind of lines.
-Yeah, absolutely. -And also, that would happily power a bike riding along the flat without you pedaling about 15 – 17 miles an hour as well, roughly. That’s just nuts.
-Exactly, and so, as soon as you stop pedaling the motor disengages and you have a switch, probably on your handlebars. You know, you can put it on your brake levers so you wouldn’t even have to move your hands. And you can switch it back on again and “boom” 200 Watts. -Now I think at this point, this is obviously being uncovered as we’ve said, we’ve yet to find out the details but I think the interesting thing for me, in this particular case, as far as we know, the bike wasn’t taken apart. The UCI had an app, we believe in an iPad, speaking with people on the ground that were scanning all the bikes and alarms went off. But this is really interesting, they’ve got this bit of kit that they’re going round, This is going to set, you’d think, quite a lot of alarm bells ringing. But a great bit of tech, and hats off to the UCI, I think. -Yeah, absolutely, because, you know, when the allegations first started surfacing about motors in bikes, you know, we for one scoffed at them, because the instances seemed, you know, so far fetched. But the UCI clearly had some information, that perhaps this was going on, and so they’ve invested, we understand, quite a lot of money in their new bit of kit, this app that can live in an iPad or an iPhone, and then, like you say, they don’t have to dismantle the bikes. They were doing that, weren’t they? They started Milan San Remo last year, where they actually did take bikes apart, and now it’s just a case of walking past, almost like a metal detector. This has been something that’s been bubbling along for a few years now, and we’ve seen on the internet, and then, on the web, some interesting, almost conspiracy-like theories, but it, it does beg a belief that a set of individuals, because it’s not just one person, this. I mean, I think we need to talk about the culpability, and also, the penalties that the UCI are going to give out here, it isn’t just about one person here, is it? No, that’s it, I think the interesting thing is going to be what happens next, isn’t it? So, the UCI have got the legislation in place, where someone who tests positive, if you can use that phrase, for mechanical doping, gets a minimum six month ban, plus a fine of between 200, no, 20 and 200 Swiss Francs. And that fine can also be levied on the team, which in this case would be the National Federation. However, let’s stress that that is a *minimum* six month ban, and personally – I don’t know what you think about this, Matt – I think this is so black and white, mechanical doping, that actually, that six month ban should be a full lifetime ban for the rider and all their support staff, that have been proven to be involved in this. I just, I don’t think the UCI can afford to mess around here. I’m kind of with you, it will be interesting to see how this particular case pans out. I for one, and I’ve no doubt, all of you will hope it’s the first case, and the last case. I’m still struggling to come to terms with the fact that somebody has taken the risk to do it, but yeah, there should be lengthy bans. But I think, given in this particular case it appears it’s a youngster, we should look at, you know, lengthy bans for the trainers, anybody who’s involved in this, and we need to make a clean break, but again, hats off to the UCI, and let’s hope it doesn’t dampen what has already been a tremendous few days here at Zolder, but I think, we know that this has lit up social media, we know a lot of you have got a lot to say, so we’d encourage you to leave your comments down below, this one is definitely, Si, going to run and run. It is indeed, yeah. What do you think? What do you think the sanctions should be? And do you think that maybe this is something that has been plaguing the sport for a couple of years? Now, we do know, actually, that it has been plaguing the sport, because there’s been an incident even here at GCN, and there’s actually a video up there, where we gather some kind of motorised doping took place, as our own Dan Lloyd broke the record up the Col de la Madone, you can actually see that video just up there. Thus illustrating the power of mechanical doping, yes, and the impact it can have. Or, you can click just down there, for the latest GCN show. Yeah, and before you leave, do make sure you’re subscribed to GCN, you can do that just by clicking just something there, I think it says SUBSCRIBE in big letters. I think it does. And like it, too.