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Mechanical doping: Tour de France to use thermal imaging kit to look for hidden motors

Biggest operation yet against concealed motors will involve equipment from French military

Thermal imaging devices will be among unprecedented measures used at this year’s Tour de France, which starts in Normandy next Saturday, according to French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche.

One thermal imaging camera, mounted on a motorbike, will be used while the race is in progress, while bikes will also be checked at stage starts and finishes using the magnetic wave scanning technology deployed by the UCI since the start of the year.

The French military will also be loaning another thermal imaging device to race organisers ASO, which the newspaper says is due to announce tomorrow the measures aimed at combating technological fraud.

The measures have been implemented after the country’s secretary of state for sport, Thierry Braillard, put together a working party to look into the issue of hidden motors.

"This problem is worse than doping,” he said, quoted on Sky Sports News. “The very future of cycling is hanging in the balance.

"Under my orders, research centres have been hard at work to establish the best way to combat this menace," he added.

In January, a concealed motor was found in a bike prepared for Belgian under-23 cyclo-cross rider Femke van den Driessche at the world cyclo-cross championships, the first time one had been discovered.

French TV sports magazine programme Stade 2 has reported on concealed motors on three occasions since then, and has claimed that thermal imaging equipment is more reliable than the UCI’s scanners, which are based on an app linked to a tablet computer.

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Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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handlebarcam | 7 years ago
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If they can calibrate the thermal imaging systems, so that the temperature range recorded is a constant, say twenty degrees Celsius as in the above picture, which was of a known motorised bicycle set up for demonstration, then fine, great, good idea.

If they just dump on the Internet anything that contains superficially suspicious glowing bicycles, regardless of whether the bits that show as "white hot" are actually only a few degrees hotter than the background, then that would be hugely irresponsible. It could lead to vigilante action far worse than the urine throwing that Chris Froome had to endure last year.

Yorkshire wallet replied to handlebarcam | 7 years ago
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handlebarcam wrote:

It could lead to vigilante action far worse than the urine throwing that Chris Froome had to endure last year.


Yeah, but if they throw piss at Froome's bike it'll ruin the thermal imaging opportunities.....

In all seriousness, any suspicions need to be acted up straight away post race with a strip down, not left to trial by media. Likewise if any media source hands over the suspicious pictures/footage and it's found to prove nothing, they need to strongly discourage from using it to stir the pot. 

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