Following explosive claims that a key UCI official may have frustrated a French police investigation against hidden motors at the Tour de France, the governing body has said it will carry out an internal review. The response comes after the Stade 2 TV programme published emails on Sunday that showed UCI Technical Manager Mark Barfield alerted the e-bike company Typhoon that a controversial engineer, Stefano Varjas, was at the Tour and was of interest to police.
Varjas has been linked to hidden motors and had been employed by Typhoon to help develop its electronic bikes. Barfield’s email was sent to Harry Gibbings, a Typhoon director, who in turn told Varjas that the French police had opened a file into motor doping and could prosecute those involved. As a result Varjas left the Tour and was not interviewed by police.
In a statement issued on Monday, the UCI has backed Barfield and justified contacts with Typhoon. “The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has consulted experts from a wide variety of backgrounds – including university academics, mechanical, electronic and software engineers, and bike suppliers – in the process of developing an effective method of detecting technological fraud,” it said.
“The person interviewed in the Stade 2 report [Gibbings – ed.] was among those consulted by the UCI in order to fully understand the technologies available and hence how to detect cases of technological fraud.
“The UCI has full confidence in its staff employed in this area. It will investigate whether emails sent in 2015 to an external consultant were passed on to a third party and used in a way that no-one intended.”
The statement appears to remove blame from Barfield, who earlier this year used Typhoon bikes in a demonstration to show how the UCI’s tablet and software technology can detect hidden motors. He told Stade 2 that Typhoon was a UCI partner and that he was sharing information with it in that regard.
However his email and Gibbings’ subsequent message to Varjas effectively frustrated a move by French police to investigate possible hidden motor use at the Tour.
Varjas had previously been linked to claims in 2010 that hidden motors were in use in the peloton.
Click here for more details on the Stade 2 claims plus a video of the programme.