After doping, micro motors the cutting-corners concern for Tour de France

  • N Ananthanarayanan, Hindustan Times, NEW DELHI
  • Updated: Jul 12, 2016 11:11 IST
On Monday, the first rest day, Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford said Chris Froome was one of the most tested to check for a motorised bike and that it would be suicidal to even try to cheat. (AP)

Sport is forever adapting the global best in cutting-edge technology and the Tour de France, currently at its midpoint, is a great example, be it the bike, jersey or diet.

But cutting edge has also led to suspicion of cutting corners this year.

Cycling’s biggest event, where talent, amazing endurance and sprinting, tactics individual and team, and organisation combine to provide the spectacle, has also seen plenty of lows.

The moving image in the last decade or so has also been of cyclists using banned substances, none pulling down the sport more than its seven-time winner, Lance Armstrong.


However, this year, authorities are vigilant due to concerns that doping alone need not be the source of powering for riders.

The Tour officials are using a thermal camera and magnetic resonance testing to check for motors on the bike.

As Britain’s Steven Cummings successfully broke away going up the Pyrenees to win the seventh stage, TV pictures showed an official on a motorcycle using the testing device.

A young woman rider was caught in the act during last year’s junior world championships and suspended, and officials have one more area to monitor this time.

Even Briton’s defending champion Chris Froome is facing intense scrutiny. Froome has won two titles with his famed attacks in the mountain stages and is naturally the subject of intense scrutiny.


Froome’s latest attack to victory came in the mountains on Sunday as the Team Sky rider claimed the leader’s yellow jersey for the first time in this year’s race.

On Monday, the first rest day, Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford said Froome was one of the most tested to check for a motorised bike and that it would be suicidal to even try to cheat.

“To find an engine in a bike is a pretty simple thing to do in this day and age,” Brailsford said.

“The technology that you (journalists) have got to beam these pictures up to a satellite and back is way more complex and difficult -- that you use on a day-to-day basis -- than finding a motor in a bike. It’s not a difficult task.

“You just need the right technology to find it -- you’ve either got an engine in your bike or you haven’t.”


But cycling has constantly waged a credibility battle that authorities cannot afford any let up with the tremors unleashed by doping scandals yet to subside.

Armstrong’s fall from grace apart, professional cycling, and Tour de France in particular, has been besmirched by the doping bans of many other high-profile competitors.

A Spanish court last month ruled that more than 200 blood bags seized in a decade-old ‘Operation Puerto’ doping investigation case should be handed over to sports authorities for testing.

This ruling could expose a number of athletes suspected of doping. Spanish police had seized 211 coded blood bags from the Madrid clinic of sports doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, revealing a doping network involving some of the world’s top cyclists.

Endurance races always demand that officials exercise extra vigil. Decades ago, an Olympic marathon runner was caught after slipping out of the route and returning closer to the finish.

The New York Times had reported about a woman competitor in an Ironman race in Canada allegedly losing her timing clip to use shortcuts and get ahead of competitors in the running leg.

Now on, cycling enthusiasts will have to keep fingers crossed for their favourite riders to stay clean on doping as well as mechanical micro-dosing.

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