The UCI has hailed its new scanning method for mechanical doping and has promised that it will continue to test heavily in all disciplines throughout the year.
Mechanised or mechanical doping had been rumoured as far back as 2010, but this year saw the first confirmed case in competition, by a cyclo-crosser taking part in 'technological fraud' at the Women's Under-23 race of the 2016 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Heusden-Zolder.
The UCI carried out unannounced bike checks at the Tour de Romandie on Friday April 29th and found no technological fraud. Tests on the day numbered 347 bikes from all the participating teams. 507 bike checks were made at the Tour in total.
The new scanning method employed by the UCI was the one that led to the discovery of mechanical doping earlier this year. It sounds pretty portable, using just a tablet, case, adapter and custom-made software enabling an operator to test a complete bike, wheels, frame, groupset and other components in under a minute. If the scan picks up anything unusual then the bike is dismantled.
It works using a magnetic field and was developed after shortcomings were found in using thermal imaging (the motor has to be in use or just been used to be warm), x-rays (logistically tricky, with radiation shields required to keep the public safe) and ultrasonic (initially promising, the UCI said, but calibration issues around differing thicknesses proved prohibitive).
UCI President Brian Cookson said: “Over the past two years we have made a considerable investment of UCI resources to find a method of testing bikes for technological fraud which is flexible, reliable, effective, fast and easy to deploy. We have consulted experts from a wide variety of professional backgrounds – universities, mechanical, electronic and software engineers, physicists – and worked with the best technology available."
Cookson warned: "Our ability to reliably test so many bikes has transformed our work in this area and we will continue to test widely in all our disciplines to ensure that anyone tempted to cheat in this way knows they are highly likely to be caught.”
It is believed that the publicity around mechanical doping has actually boosted bike sales.