Doubts raised over effectiveness of UCI tests for mechanical doping

Fresh doubts have been cast upon the effectiveness of the UCI’s testing for mechanical doping after reporters from Il Corriere della Sera, France 2 and German television station ARD had one of the governing body’s tablet scanners analysed at a laboratory in Germany.

The UCI has been using tablets to test bikes since 2016, and demonstrated the technology at a presentation in Aigle, Switzerland, in May 2016, where it was claimed that the device could detect magnetic flux density of hidden motors or magnetic wheels. 

The UCI is estimated to have carried out 42,500 tests using its tablet over the past two years, but the device has yet to uncover any instance of mechanical doping. The governing body has encouraged national federations to purchase the device.


Il Corriere della Sera managed to procure one of the UCI scanners, and found that it consisted of an Apple iPad mini equipped with a magnet that serves as an antenna, as well as software developed by a company called Endoscope-i, based in Birmingham. The products listed on the British company’s website are iPhone adapters for use in ear, nose and throat endoscopy.

Il Corriere, France 2 and ARD brought the device to the Fraunhofer Institute for Nondestructive Testing in Saarbrucken, Germany, where vice-director Bernd Valeske gauged its efficacy.

Valeske first used the tablet to scan a bike equipped with a rudimentary motor of the kind discovered in the bike of Femke Van Den Driessche at the 2016 Cyclo-cross World Championships. Van Den Driessche is to date the only rider to have been sanctioned for mechanical doping – or technological fraud, as the UCI prefers it to be called.

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