Mechanical Doping: Motor doping

Mechanical doping, in other name motor doping. In competitive cycling terminology, is a method of cheating by using a hidden motor to help propel a racing bicycles. The term is an analogy to chemical doping in sport. In other words, cheating by using performance-enhancing drugs. Union Cycliste Internationale, the international governing body of cycling  banned mechanical doping.

Examples of Mechanical doping

Fabian Cancellara mechanical doping allegation

One of the first allegations of mechanical doping goes back to the 2010 Tour of Flanders when Fabian Cancellara attacked Tom Boonen on a steep part of Kapelmuur whilst unusually seated, leading to allegations that there was an electric motor hidden in Cancellara’s bike.

 Ryder Hesjedal

Four years later, Ryder Hesjedal was the subject of allegations of mechanical doping during the 2014 Vuelta a España. Hesjedal crashed on stage seven of the race. The video footage of the crash showed his bicycle’s rear wheel continuing to spin after it had fallen onto the road. This lead to a number of media outlets including the website of French sports newspaper questioning whether the bike contained a motor.However, Cycling Weekly later suggested that the bicycle’s movement could have simply been due to it sliding on a downward gradient. The race commissaries examined the bikes of Hesjedal’s team the following morning and no motors were found. 

Femke Van Den Driessche mechanical doping

In January 2016 , the UCI confirmed first case of use of “mechanical doping” in the sport. This was at the 2016 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships when one bike of  Femke Van den Driessche was found to have a secret motor inside.

UCI regulations

Some sources claim that motorized doping has occurred before in professional cycling. However, the UCI did not detected or prove the occurrences. Athletes in many sports see it as part of a larger effort to gain mechanical advantage in competition. In May 2010 former rider Davide Cassani demonstrated a motorized bicycle on the Italian public broadcaster RAI. He claimed some professional cyclist had used similar bikes  since 2004. The discovery of a motor resulted in a substantial uptick in the level of scrutiny focused on bikes. The UCI has indicated it intends to purchase scanning equipment. According to Peter van de Abele, it also has an app and tablet with which to scan bikes in seconds. The scandal spread, and is the worst in this sport since the doping scandal in 2012 involving Lance Armstrong. 

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