New UCI chief to crack down on hidden bike motors

By Julien Pretot
David Lappartient, newly elected President of the UCI, attends a news conference in Bergen, Norway, September 21, 2017. NTB scanpix/Cornelius Poppe/via REUTERS

By Julien Pretot

BERGEN, Norway (Reuters) - A crackdown on hidden motors is a top priority for International Cycling Union (UCI) president-elect David Lappartient to restore credibility to the scandal-ridden sport.

Lappartient defeated Brian Cookson, who was elected as UCI president on a similar promise in 2013, at the governing body's congress during this week's road cycling world championships.

But Cookson failed to convince UCI delegates that the organisation was effectively fighting so-called mechanical doping after Femke Van den Driessche, was caught with a hidden motor in 2016. The Belgian rider said it was not her bike.

"I will be focused on guaranteeing the credibility of the results, especially on technological fraud," Lappartient told Reuters on Thursday.

The UCI implemented a system under which stewards check bikes with iPads adapted with magnets to detect hidden motors, but a joint report earlier this month suggested the method, also criticised by several riders and team managers, was ineffective.

"We were not professional enough on this subject and I will bring some new ideas to check the bikes and to be stronger on this subject. I don't want the UCI to be seen as weak in the fight against technological fraud," Lappartient said.

The 44-year-old Frenchman added he wants a method used by Tour de France organisers to be used more widely.

Tour organisers Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) employed thermal cameras using atomic research technology in 2016 to detect motors in bikes, even if the motor is turned off.

Under Britain's Cookson, the relationship between the two organisations was cold at best, and Lappartient's election was greeted warmly by Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme.

"He is a man of action and I have no doubt he will be true to his word," Prudhomme said, adding there was "still a lot of work to do" to improve the sport's image.

"Let's work hand in hand to help the sport grow and make people dream but in order to do that, cycling must be credible," Prudhomme told Reuters.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; editing by Alexander Smith)

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