The UCI is looking for electric bicycles in the Tour de France: this is how it fights against mechanical doping

The doping It is a fraud that unfortunately has haunted cycling for many years. To the medical doping that has brought so many troubles and disappointments to this sport has been joined in recent years by mechanical or technological doping. With the start of 2022 Tour de France On July 1, the International Cycling Union (UCI) presented a series of strategies designed to fight against this new doping and the protocols that it will follow during the tough French competition. This is how this organization fights against this new cloud that lies in wait for competitive cycling.

In cycling, it is known by the name of mechanical doping those fraudulent practices who try to take advantage of mechanical elements installed on bicycles such as small electric motors and batteries in competitions. The UCI has been monitoring and persecuting this type of practice since 2016 and for this it uses several control systems that it applies according to a rigorous action protocol so that there are no doubts about its legitimacy at any time.

On July 1, a few hours before the start of the Tour de France 2022, an important competition on which all eyes are on and which has worldwide repercussions, the UCI presented the new technologies and the inspection protocol against mechanical doping. During last year’s edition, 1,008 bicycle controls were carried out and no case of fraud was detected.

The protocol presented by the UCI breaks down the procedure that its inspectors will follow during the 21 days of the race aimed at finding and locating possible mechanical assistance systems hidden inside the bicycles, such as small electric motors that help the cyclists to pedal and the accumulators and batteries that feed them. These systems can go hidden inside the frame tubes Y operated by hidden buttons that communicate via wireless systems.

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Before each stage, the UCI technical commissioner inspects each of the bicycles that are going to take the start using magnetic tablets and identifies suspicious elements that could be placed inside the tubes.

To locate them, the commissioners have two main tools: the usual magnetic tablets that have been used so far and the mobile X-ray cabins based on backscatter and transmission technologies. The same type of technology that is used in airport scanners based on very low energy waves that do not pose any risk to those around them.

The action protocol indicates that before each stage, the UCI technical commissioner inspects each of the bicycles that will take the start each day. This first control is carried out using magnetic tablets (used since 2016), whose software has been recently updated, and identifies suspicious elements that could be placed inside the tubes of the bicycle frames.

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At the end of the stage, the mobile X-ray cabins are used to examine the bicycle of the stage winner, the leaders of the classifications and other cyclists who have had suspicious behavior during the stage.

To the finish each stage Controls are carried out on the bicycles of the winner of the stage, the leaders of each classification and three or four cyclists selected at random each day. In addition, those of those cyclists who during the stage have had a behavior that can be considered suspicious, such as an abnormal number of bicycle changes for no apparent reason, will also be controlled. For this reason, the marshals also have the power to control the bicycles that travel on the roof of the support cars.

Once the stage is over, when crossing the finish line, each of these bicycles is tagged and the control is carried out in a few minutes. These are carried out using mobile X-ray booths (a technology introduced by the UCI in 2018) together with transmission and backscatter technology that came into use more recently, in 2021. In case of suspicion and if necessary, the stewards can even request the complete disassembly of the bicycle.

X-rays provide a high resolution image of the inside of the bike in just five minutes. Backscatter technology is used to provide instant images of the interior of the examined sections and transmission to be sent remotely to the UCI stewards.

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With the backscatter technology, instant images of the interior of the examined sections are obtained and with the transmission technology they are sent instantly to the UCI commissaires.

These control methods and corresponding protocols will apply to all UCI WorldTour events, UCI Road World Championships, UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships, Para-cycling Road World Cup from the ICU, to

UCI Women’s WorldTour events and the Olympic Games. Testing is also carried out at the UCI MTB, Cyclocross and Track World Championships, as well as the UCI Cyclocross World Cup.

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