Online cycling platform Zwift has handed out two more bans to cyclists for manipulating or falsifying data after participating in virtual races.
The Zwift Performance Verification Board, which investigates and rules on cases where tampering with data is suspected, has banned both riders from entering official Zwift eSports events for six months, with the decisions both relating to races that took place last month.
Antonina Reznikov was found to have submitted power values “32 per cent higher than the original recorded values” after taking part in the Zwift Racing League (Season 2) – Women’s Race #1 on 11 January, in which she finished fourth.
She was investigated after “Zwift’s automated systems identified that the dual-recorded data from the rider’s power meter may have been edited and warranted more detailed investigation.”
The 38 year old, who won the bronze medal in the road race at last year’s Israeli national championships and was third in the time trial in 2019, “initially denied editing the file,” according to the decision, but “eventually acknowledged that they had indeed changed their power data before submitting it to Zwift.”
In the case of Selma Trommer, who finished 10th in the road race at the German national championships last year, there were likewise suspicions that data from her “power meter may have been edited” after she finished sixth in the Zwift Racing League (Season 2) – Women’s Race #2 on 18 January.
“Detailed analysis by Zwift of the rider’s data identified that the power values submitted were 9 per cent higher than the originally recorded values,” the Zwift Performance Verification Board said in its decision.
“In order to give the rider the opportunity to put their side of the case forward, Zwift shared digital forensic evidence showing that the data submitted had been edited, and they were asked for their response. The rider gave multiple replies over the next 24 hours repeatedly denying that they had edited the file. Notably, at no point did the rider admit any fault, show any remorse or offer any plausible explanation as to how their file came to be edited.
“In parallel, the rider’s team manager offered their assistance in trying to understand how the data had been edited,” the decision continued.
“They noted that the rider had said that they had problems uploading the file to Garmin Connect and had used another application (Golden Cheetah) to import and export the files before sending them to Zwift.
“Zwift considered in detail the possibility that the files could have been edited by accident through the riders use of these applications. The fact however that all the power records in the rider’s data file had all been increased by a fixed percentage, precluded this possibility.
In conclusion, the decision said: “After extended correspondence, the rider eventually acknowledged both that the data had been edited, and that the principle of strict liability applied. The rider still did not however admit any personal fault, or offer any explanation as to how their file came to be edited.”
Last year, Zwift handed six month bans to two riders, Lizi Duncombe and Shanni Berger,m for similar violations while taking part in races on its platform.
As countries around the world entered lockdown last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Zwifts popularity both for training and racing soared, with events hosted on the platform including virtual editions of the Tour of Flanders and the Tour de France.
In 2019, Cameron Jeffers was banned following his victory at the inaugural British eRacing national championships, which saw British Cycling become the first national federation worldwide to stage such an event.
Following the men’s race at the BT Studios at London’s Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park, he was found to have manipulated data prior to the event to unlock a Zwift Concept Z1 bike – popularly known as a “Tron” bike – to give himself an advantage over his competitors.
Jeffers was stripped of his title, fined £250 and handed a six-month suspension from all racing, with the title awarded to James Phillips, who came second on the day.
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.