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French probe into mechanical doping shelved after no evidence found

Three-year investigation examined possibility of technological fraud at top levels of sport

An investigation by two leading magistrates in France into mechanical doping in cycling has been closed after they found no evidence of riders cheating by using hidden motors.

> Top magistrates in France reportedly investigating motor doping

The investigation was launched in 2017 by Claire Thépaut and Serge Tournaire, members of a specialist judicial unit based in Paris that had been set up in 2014 to investigate high-profile cases related to fraud and corruption.

At the time, it was reported that the probe would concentrate o the highest levels of the sport amid suspicions that some “big-name riders” were using motors hidden in the frame of their bike.

However, L’Equipe reports that the investigation was shelved earlier this year with no evidence found of what the UCI officially calls “technological fraud.”

The governing body’s current president, David Lappartient made fighting motor doping a main issue in his successful election campaign in 2017.

The previous year, a hidden motor had been found in a spare bike prepared for Belgian under-23 rider Femke van Den Driessche at the 2016 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Zolder.

She subsequently received a six-year ban in what remains the only confirmed case of mechanical doping at a high-profile event.

After defeating Brian Cookson to win the UCI presidency, Lappartient said that discovery of a leading professional cyclist using a hidden motor would be “a disaster for the sport.”

The UCI has continued to test for their use, including through using a tablet app to test for magnetic waves, as well as using x-ray machines and thermal imaging cameras to try and detect them.

Away from top-level racing, there have been some cases of riders in France and Italy being caught using illegal mechanical assistance.

In 2018, a Category 3 racer in France received a five-year ban for using a motor concealed in his bike, Cyril Fontaine had been targeted for testing after a dramatic improvement in his results.

> Mechanical doping: French cyclist who used hidden motor in Cat-3 race receives five-year ban

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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