Explosive report: Mechanical doping in Tour de France?
Less than two months after Stade 2 claimed that thermal imaging cameras may have revealed hidden motor use in two Italian races, the French TV programme made bigger claims when it suggested a senior UCI official may have frustrated a police manoeuvre at last year’s Tour de France.
In a programme released on Sunday evening and visible in French below, the programme makers claimed that UCI technical manager Mark Barfield alerted e-bike maker Typhoon about police plans to investigate suspected hidden motor use in the 2015 Tour de France, Cycling Tips reports.
Stade 2 has acquired emails from the Barfield and Typhoon director Harry Gibbings. “Hi,” the message reads. “Do you have a phone number I can all [sic] you on straight away, I’m sitting with French police who believe an engineer ‘Hungarian’ is visiting TDF today to sell a bike and visit teams, could this be your guy???”
The message concludes by asking Gibbings to call him on a number which Stade 2 has partially obscured. Gibbings sent a message the following day to Stefano Varjas, a Hungarian engineer who has long been regarded as instrumental to the development of hidden motors.
“I was doing family stuff yesterday when this mail came in from a guy in the UCI so I didn’t see it until late in the evening. The French police have opened a file on ‘motor doping’ and will prosecute under ‘anti cheating’ laws. I have given no information on Stefano or any of the customers from the past only saying that Typhoon were happy to help in anyway possible to try and detect a similar system in racing bikes.
“My understanding is that I will be contacted again in the future. Nobody has asked me for the names of Typhoon’s engineers yet. Bill doesn’t know about this at the moment, but we are due to meet at some point today when I’ll have to tell him. I don’t need to tell you guys this is a very big and serious mess. As I get anymore information I will pass along to you.”
Varjas quickly left the race, preventing police plans to interview him. He had earlier signed a contract in January of last year to work with Typhoon.
Barfield was approached at the Critérium du Dauphiné by one of the journalists involved in the programme. Shown the emails in question, the Briton confirmed that it was sent by him. He was then asked why he had passed on information of a confidential police investigation to others.
He said it was to give information. When it was pointed out to him that Typhoon is not part of the UCI, he said the company was a partner and that giving the information was part of helping the police. However, according to Stade 2, the police have disputed this version of events and said that Barfield did not contact them again.
Another reporter from Stade 2 approached Gibbings in Monaco. The Irishman confirmed receiving the email from Barfield and said that Varjas was not at the Tour de France for Typhoon and had actually told the company that he was not attending the race.
The UCI has carried out considerable numbers of these tests this season. Barfield and the UCI have rejected Stade 2’s calls for thermal imaging cameras to be used, saying they would not work in the context of a race.