Mechanical doping, a real problem in the peloton?

If you’ve ever followed pro cycling, you’ve likely heard whispers of a kind of doping that doesn’t involve blood. Mechanical doping, involving hidden bike motors capable of adding a few extra watts—just enough to put riders out in front of packs—has been hinted at, but no one has been caught or sanctioned despite added bike checks during major races. But that doesn’t mean it’s never happened—something that the UCI itself just acknowledged.

In an interview with Cycling Tips, Mark Barfield, the newly appointed technical manager for the UCI, told reporters he believes mechanical doping in the pro peloton has happened in the past—though he’s sure it’s not currently a problem.

This isn’t an old issue. In 2014, a video surfaced of admitted-ex-doper Ryder Hesjedal’s bike seemingly moving on its own after a crash in the Vuelta a España:

Was it mechanical doping, or was it just a combination of impact angle and momentum that made the bike move? Since the incident, Hesjedal’s bike—along with others at big races—has been checked by officials several times. Hesjedal and his team maintain that the allegations are ludicrous, and no sign of a motor has ever been confirmed.

For those panicking that cycling will again be awash with cheating allegations, don’t fret yet: Barfield adds that testing will become more rigorous and widespread under his reign as tech manager. Clearly, the UCI is hell-bent on avoiding another “doping” scandal in pro cycling.