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Concealed motor found in bike of French 3rd category amateur

Vivax Assist system
Peter Stuart
2 Oct 2017

Suspected motor doping as French 43-year-old cyclist is found with a motor in his frame, after a tip-off by rivals in previous race

A French 43-year-old amateur cyclist was found to have a concealed motor within his frame at a race in France on Sunday, following competitors noting his "impressive" climbing ability in a race last week, reports Le Télégramme.

The Su Ouest newspaper reported that competitors had noted his strong climbing ability the previous week,  ("où sa faculté à monter les côtes avait impressionné"), which led to a co-ordinated operation by the French Cycling Federaton and anti-doping authority to inspect his bike.

The bike was inspected on arrival, and found to contain a concealed motor. According to reports on BikeBiz, the motor was concealed in the seattube with a battery contained in a custom water-bottle. 

The race was an amateur 3rd category race in Saint-Michel-de-Double, 50km south-west of Périgueux. The rider quickly confessed to the use of the system, according to Le Télégramme's report.

The French cyclist is now under investigation by local police, as doping is technically illegal in France, unlike in the UK. It is treated as a form of sporting fraud, meaning it is evaluated against possible winnings in competition.

'We have been advised by an official of the French Anti-Doping Agency of a suspicion of cheating by means of an electrical system, presumably a small engine.' said Jean-François Mailhes, the public prosecutor of the Republic of Périgueux. 

Police are reportedly now trying evaluate his career to calculate the total number of 'racing bonuses' (montant des primes) that the rider may have benefitted from as a result of his possible electrical assistance.

This is the first example of motor doping found in France, but bears some similarlities to a case involving an Italian amateur rider, as well as a discovery of an illegal motor at the UCI Cyclocross World Championships in 2016.

Similar systems

This would be consistent with a Vivax-Assist, tested several years ago by Cyclist. This is a customised system that requires a reinforced seattube where a motor is inserted to assist the rotation of the cranks up to around 100 watts.

Dopeology.org has tweeted a picture of the alleged offending bike, which is an open-mould Far Eastern carbon frame, adapted for the use of a seattube-based motor.

A similar, if not identical, motor system was also found in the bicycle of Femke Van Den Driessche, when competing at the U-23 cyclocross World Championships.

There are rumours of other systems in existence, including a highly-expensive electro-magnetic rear wheel. These systems are yet to be discovered in competition, or indeed been seen in any fully functional capacity. The use of concealed motors in a bicycle is heavily sanctioned by the UCI and in the case of the infringement by Van Den Driessche resulted in a six-year suspension.

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