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Banned Zwift racer issues statement of defense: ‘I have always been a transparent athlete’

Lizi Duncombe claims complications around power files led to her being handed six-month ban for violation of data recording and reporting standards.

Banned Zwift racer Lizi Duncombe has issued a statement of defense explaining the circumstances that led to her suspension from ProAM racing.

Duncombe explained on Facebook on Friday that complications around power files submitted to ZADA (Zwift Accuracy and Data Analysis) from a race this September led to her being banned from competition for six months for data manipulation and insisted that she is a fully “transparent athlete.”

“I must start by stressing that this whole situation evolves around my backup, secondary power file which is not used in Zwift in any way,” Duncombe wrote. “It does not affect my racing, the data that Zwift receives in-game and is merely a requirement of ZADA to dual record your power through a separate device.”

Duncombe was banned earlier this month after a ZADA investigation had discovered that the Brit’s data file only contained 90 seconds of information and that a subsequently-received file from Duncombe’s power meter did not match numbers directly captured via her smart trainer.

Duncombe explained that she had submitted a power file that contained only a snippet of data after her Garmin head unit recording the in-game statistics had run out of battery, and that a backup of the file that she subsequently provided ZADA was faulty. The inconsistencies in the second file led to Zwift race officials accusing her of violating technology data recording and reporting standards.

“In hindsight, I should have just stopped after sending the original file which only contained a small section of recording and taken the single race DQ if that was going to be the outcome,” Duncombe wrote. “But in an attempt to work with ZADA and provide them with what they needed I actually made the whole situation worse. ZADA have then proceeded to sanction me, publicly shame me, and ruin my reputation by posting details which are poorly explained, poorly worded and insinuate something which is completely untrue.”

At the time of the investigation, ZADA had claimed that “at no point did the rider admit any fault, show any remorse or offer any plausible explanation,” contrasting Duncombe’s statement Friday.

Duncombe went on to explain that all of her past race data is available to inspect on Zwiftpower and that her weigh-in videos are available on the Zwift Transparency page.

“I hope that, for those reading this, they understand what actually happened and will know that I have never tried to maliciously tamper with my data and have always been a transparent athlete,” she said.

Shanni Berger was also banned from racing this month, again on the basis of data that ZADA felt was contradictory to that held in their servers.

ZADA is not yet known to have responded to Duncombe’s post.

Duncombe’s full statement can be read here:

“ZADA’s Sanction, What Happened:

I must start by stressing that this whole situation evolves around my backup, secondary power file which is not used in Zwift in any way. It does not affect my racing, the data that Zwift receives in game and is merely a requirement of ZADA to dual record your power through a separate device. Even if you choose not to read all of the below, please understand this.

———-

At the time of the race I was using a Wahoo Kickr Core as my main power source and a pair of Assioma power pedals as a secondary source. For the ProAm races you have to dual record your power using two different power meters. For me, I record my Assioma pedals with a Garmin 820 whilst Zwift directly reads from the Wahoo.

After one of the qualifying races for the ProAm League I went to turn off my equipment and noticed my Garmin was dead. When I tried to upload the file I realised that the battery had died and wasn’t sure at which point it had stopped working. I had a file that looked like the warm up and it was the only thing I could find so I sent it to ZADA explaining what I thought had happened. Shortly after, a friend offered to help me retain the full race file and it seemed to work so I uploaded this to Zwiftpower.

A few days later ZADA DQ’d me from the race without any discussion why. I contacted them to say that I had found the Garmin race file, which I hope could reverse their decision, and that the file I had previously sent must have just been the warm-up. I forwarded what I had uploaded to Zwiftpower but unfortunately they couldn’t open it so ZADA downloaded it from Zwiftpower themselves.

They then sent me a message asking if I was sure that it was the correct file so I downloaded it from Zwiftpower into training peaks and looked at it properly. I realised it had the GPS map which doesn’t happen on the secondary power source (the Garmin) and initially thought it must have been a duplicate recording of the Zwift race file from my Wahoo Kickr. I told Zada not to use it, explaining I had seen the GPS map on it so it must be an incorrect file.

ZADA then got back to me after looking at it and immediately started accusing me of tampering with the file but I didn’t really understand what they were actually talking about as I’m not great with technology. I had a big IRL race to focus on the following weekend and didn’t really want to deal with ZADA’s accusations, but found myself endlessly trying to explain that it was an accident and I didn’t get why they were accusing me, or how they expected me to have known how to manipulate a file. I was in complete denial. I had a public record of dual recorded races so I used that as a way to try and get them to see that I do actually have an accurate power meter and power pedals, and that I am a legitimate athlete but they just kept accusing me of manipulating the file which carried on for about a week.

After the triathlon that weekend I spoke to the friend that had helped me find the file and he explained that the file he created was a merging of the Garmin and the Zwift file. Unfortunately he hadn’t understood the severity of the situation and assumed it was just a dual recording for Zwiftpower. This was all too late to reverse so I kept trying to defuse the accusations by pointing out my track record in proving myself in the virtual world.

They eventually backed off and went quiet for a few weeks so I gathered that they had given me the benefit of the doubt, but in mid-October I had an email stating they had decided to give me a 6 month ban for the ProAm racing but I was welcome to race the community events. I was gutted, butalso relieved it was over and that I could just get on with my life thinking no one would bring up again. I didn’t tell anyone as I didn’t really know what to say and it didn’t seem necessary at the time but two months later, for the first time ever and without any warning, ZADA decided to go and make their one sided version of the story very public.

———

This year, with Covid lockdown, I’ve spent almost all of my time cycling on Zwift and racing across many different series. For the ProAm series it is a requirement to provide a lot of extra files and details including a secondary power FIT file from a secondary power source, a weigh-in video and a height video for every race. The pressure of maintaining race weight and in fact trying to lose weight for these Zwift races has caused, not only me, but many of the girls I ride with to develop an eating complex and a weight complex. This is especially true during lockdown where there are so many other pressures and issues to deal with, it has certainly played a key part with anxiety and negative obsessive behaviour.

———

In hindsight, I should have just stopped after sending the original file which only contained a small section of recording and taken the single race DQ if that was going to be the outcome. But in an attempt to work with ZADA and provide them with what they needed I actually made the whole situation worse. ZADA have then proceeded to sanction me, publicly shame me and ruin my reputation by posting details which are poorly explained, poorly worded and insinuate something which is completely untrue.
I hope that, for those reading this, they understand what actually happened and will know that I have never tried to maliciously tamper with my data and have always been a transparent athlete.

My dual recordings for races are publicly available for anyone to see on Zwiftpower, My weigh in videos were all on Zwift Transparency page and and my Strava account is also public for people to see how my real world power compares to Zwift.
Thank you to all of my friends who have supported me through this.”