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Motor doping case closed after two-year inquiry

French authorities conclude investigation having discovered no additional evidence of the use of electronic motors in elite cycling.

French authorities have closed their investigation into mechanical doping in elite cycling.

The National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) began a deep dive into the use of mini-motors inside the frames of bikes late 2017 after Belgian rider Femke Van den Driessche was found to have a motor-driven crankset installed in her bike at the 2016 world cyclocross championships. An amateur French rider was also found to be “motor-doping” in local races through the 2017 season.

Financial magistrates powering the investigation were investigating what had been thought could be a plot that involved “high-level” riders that could have benefitted from “the latest technological advances in the field of electronic motors.”

However, L’Equipe reported Saturday that the PNF’s investigation alongside the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) has come to a close having found no further evidence. The CEA had been assisting develop thermal scanning technology to detect motors of so-called “motor doping.”

The PNF’s investigation included questioning the claimed inventor of the miniature motors that could be installed in a bike frame, Istvan Varjas. They also reached out to senior officials at the UCI, only to receive no input from several former members of the governing body.

Belgian rider Van den Driessche was banned for six years on the discovery of the motor in her ‘cross bike. The revelation prompted an introduction of a range protocol designed to prevent the recurrence of such practices. The UCI trialed various methods of checking for motorized bicycles in the years after the Van den Dreissche case only to abandon them due to defective technology and misleading results.

In 2017, former pro Jean-Christophe Péraud was appointed as the UCI “Manager of Equipment,” charged with leading the “fight against technological fraud.” In 2019, the governing promised the introduction of a range of new methods to detect for “mechanized doping” in races alongside the use of X-Ray testing and tablet scanners to establish the presence of micro-motors.