A rider has been arrested after being caught using a motor assisted bike at an amateur race in France, the nation's cycling federation (FFC) said on Monday.
"Unfortunately, the outcome of this operation confirms what was feared about the possible use of this kind of fraud in the amateur area, which is a real insult to our sport and to all the competitors who carry out their activity in full honesty," FFC chief Michel Callot said in a statement.
The rider, who was not identified, was caught Sunday after a third-category event in Saint-Michel-de-Double in south-western France and has reportedly admitted to using the hidden motor.
Cyclingnews.com said the 43-year-old rider raised suspicion with strong performances and that the police acted in tandem with the French anti-doping agency, led by former professional Christophe Bassons who left the sport because of doping during the Lance Armstrong era.
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Bassons reportedly chased and confronted the rider who had driven away after flatting and abandoning the race.
“My only doubt was whether he would have his bike rigged that day,” said former professional Christophe Bassons, who now works with the anti-doping program in the Aquitaine region.
The tip-off came after complaints were lodged with the French Federation of cycling (FFC) and the president of the Mussidan (Dordogne) club, to which the rider belongs.
“My role is to have a network, trying to get information about doping practices or trafficking in doping products,” Bassons said. “We have photos, we analyse them, we zoomed in on them. Everything confirmed it.”
Speculation around mechanical doping has been around since 2010. Last year a Belgian rider was caught at the cyclo-cross world championships and banned for six years. An Italian veteran was caught in summer.
Bikes are frequently checked at races, and Callot said the FFC uses thermal cameras and also completely dismantles bikes.
The world governing body UCI has used magnetic tablets, and its new president David Lappartient has said that new methods will also be introduced to combat mechanical doping.
Callot called for an action plan and appealed to the UCI and the French sports ministry to fight mechanical doping in professional cycling and the amateur area.
"It is about the credibility of an entire sport and its future," he said.