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Cycling: a first case of technological fraud with a proven engine in France

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – FABRICE COFFRINI – | A member of the International Cycling Union (UCI) scans a bicycle with an electronic device to detect possible mechanical fraud on 3 May 2016 in Aigle, Switzerland

An engine was discovered for the first time in France on a bicycle during a race of third category, Sunday, AFP learned from various sources, including the boss of French cycling who feared the multiplication of this kind of cheating in the amateur milieu.

The control of the equipment of the Grand Prix of Saint-Michel-de-Double, in the Dordogne, near the village of Mussidan, was fruitful for the local gendarmes.

A runner, visibly a long time in the sight of the regional correspondent of the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD), was checked by the referees of this modest race but nonetheless FFC homologated.

This 43-year-old rider was particularly noted last week during a previous race “where his faculty to climb the coasts had impressed,” reports the newspaper Sud Ouest.

Coordinated by the parquet of Périgueux, the French Cycling Federation (FFC) and AFLD regional correspondent, former professional rider Christophe Bassons, this operation conducted on “suspicion of cheating” led to the rapids confession of the rider concerned.

“We have been advised by an official of the French Anti-Doping Agency of a suspicion of cheating by means of an electrical system, probably a small engine,” said the prosecutor of the Republic of Perigueux, Jean-François Mailhes.

– Disciplinary and penal sanctions –

The rider, whose identity was not specified, “was checked on arrival” and “recognized to use this prohibited system”, prosecuted the prosecutor.

In the late afternoon, he was interviewed by the gendarmes who were trying to reconstruct his sporting career and evaluate the “amount of bonuses” that could be perceived thanks to this “illegal system”, added the magistrate.

“It is an operation that does not arise overnight. There is an obvious preparatory work,” said the president of the FFC, Michel Callot, to AFP.

If it is a first in France, the discovery of an engine in amateur cycling equipment is not insignificant for Mr. Callot, successor to the head of the recently elected David Lappartient FFC at the head of the international federation (UCI) who had made this kind of cheating one of his battle horses.

“My fear is that we find this kind of cheating quite easily in the amateur world because technologies become accessible and we do not have the same means of detection as in professional cycling,” said Michel Callot .

“I have alerted the ministry and the UCI to provide our regions with means of detection. I am very afraid for the amateur world,” he said.

“In the pros, fear of the gendarme is probably stronger (than amateurs) .I think the stakes are also of a different size if the fraud is discovered, for the sponsors, the image,” continued the boss of the FFC.

If the infringement is confirmed, which is hardly doubtful given the admissions of the rider, this would be the first case of technological doping revealed in France.

A first proven case of a bike assisted by a concealed engine in January 2016 at the World Cyclo-Cross Championships, earned Belgian Femke Van den Driessche a six-year suspension by the International Cycling Union (UCI).

“The scale for this type of fraud can be in years of suspension,” said Mr. Callot.

From a criminal point of view, it can also be prosecuted since since 2012 there has been a crime of sporting fraud in the French Penal Code.

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