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ROME (AFP) — An Italian amateur cyclist has denied using a motorized bicycle after being disqualified from a race for mechanical cheating, according to Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport.
Acting on a tip-off, organizers used a thermal camera to identify the motor and claimed that Alessandro Andreoli, 53, had even admitted to cheating.
But in an interview in Monday’s Gazzetta, Andreoli denied either having a motor in his bike or having admitted to using it.
“We had a tip-off. When we looked, we saw that in the seat tube of one rider it looked as though there was a fire,” Emiliano Scalfi, vice president of the amateur sports body that organized the race, told the paper.
It is the second instance of mechanical cheating after then Belgian teenager Femke Van den Driessche was caught with a motorized bicycle at the cyclocross world championships in Belgium in 2016.
Andreoli finished third in Saturday’s race in Bedizzole, near Brescia, after which he was asked to bring his bike to be inspected.
Scalfi, of the Centro Sportivo Italiano, claimed he then owned up, but Andreoli declined to join organizers in taking apart the bike to check the tube and denied any such admission.
“I had to go to a wedding, it was getting late,” he said as explanation for refusing to have the bike taken apart.
“But I didn’t admit to anything. They looked for a switch but couldn’t find one,” Andreoli told Gazzetta, although the newspaper published a photo of the bike in question purporting to show the switch.
Asked why he had been disqualified given his version of events, Andreoli replied: “I don’t know, maybe because they said I had a motor.
“In that case those who finished alongside me had motors. There were a lot of riders at the front and no one bothered them.”
Andreoli suggested he was the victim of a stitch-up motivated by jealousy over his “high standard of living.”
“Obviously someone doesn’t like me,” he said. “I’ve been a tiler for many years, and I earn a lot.”
Asked where he had bought the bike, Andreoli said it was from an acquaintance, whose name and phone number he’d forgotten.
“We met in the street, I liked the bike, he gave me a great price, and I took it,” he said.
Asked about claims that he’d recently started riding much faster than before, the 53-year-old gave a simple explanation.
“Before I had back pain, but I’m better now and training hard.”
Rumors have been rife for years that motorized bicycles were being used to gain an unfair advantage at major cycling races but until 2016 none had ever been found in competition.
Van den Driessche was banned for six years and thermal cameras have since been used at the Tour de France to try and weed out technological fraudsters, although none have been found among the professional ranks.