PARIS — An amateur rider was caught using a motor hidden on his bike at a small French race over the weekend, possibly the first case of mechanical doping in the country.
Acting on a tip from the French anti-doping agency on Sunday, local police arrested the rider, whose identity has not been revealed, after the race in southwestern France.
Local media said the 43-year-old man, whose impressive climbing abilities in a previous race had raised doubts, admitted to cheating.
"Unfortunately, the outcome of this operation confirms what we feared about the possible use of this type of fraud in the amateur world," French cycling president Michel Callot said in a statement. "It is a real insult to our sport, and to all the competitors carrying out their activity in all honesty."
First speculation of technological doping emerged in 2010. At the time, Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara was forced to deny he won Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders with the help of an electric bike after a video appeared to show him pushing a button on the handlebars during both races. Last year, a Belgian cyclist was caught using a motor on her bike at the cyclo-cross world championships and was banned for six years.
Bike checks have since been introduced and carried out by the cycling’s governing body at its events. The French federation said its testers at the French championships are equipped with thermal cameras, and that they also check equipment by disassembling bikes.
"This identified technological fraud case in Saint-Michel-de-Double is reinforcing the FFC in its belief this type of action should be developed locally," said Callot, adding that other "reliable and efficient technical solutions" to catch fraudsters should be developed.
Callot also called on the French sports ministry and the International Cycling Union to devise "a major action plan" with an extra attention to amateur events.