French government turns down request to make mechanical doping illegal

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Hopes that the fight against technological fraud would be strengthened due to criminalisation of hidden motors have been dashed, at least temporarily, by the French government.

Politician Marc Le Fur had proposed a motion to make so-called mechanical doping illegal, thus making those breaking the law liable to heavy penalties. He suggested a sanction of a year in prison plus a fine of €3,750 for those found in possession of such motors. Organised groups involved in the production, export or acquisition of such devices, would have faced up to seven years in prison plus a fine of €150,000.

Le Fur had argued that France should set an example in the fight against such fraud, which has been an area of concern for several years. France previously criminalised doping.

However another politician Jeanine Dubié said that it was too soon to adopt such a measure, given that UCI and national federation checks are already in place, and that the penalties were disproportionate.

She and French Secretary of State for Sports Thierry Braillard also said that a proposed law on the regulation and transparency of professional sport would put the federations in charge of carrying out checks and, if needed, to hand down sanctions.

Le Fur argued against this, according to He said that relying on federations alone was insufficient.

“If the sanction must be a sporting one, it can only be a sporting one,” he stated. “If the phenomenon we are talking about develops, which no one wishes, it will be necessary to give the police forces and possibly the public prosecutor the opportunity to act, and allow judges to punish if necessary.”

However with the majority of politicians declining to back his motion, Le Fur was invited to withdraw it and to propose instead a compromise proposal. Under this, the government will submit a report on the criminalisation of technological fraud plus an increase in the power of the French anti-doping agency in this area before December 31 2017.

The compromise proposal was approved, making it possible that such cheating could be criminalised in the future.

Triple Tour de France champion Greg LeMond and his wife Kathy have been amongst the most outspoken critics of technological fraud. LeMond has warned of the dangers for several years and previously demonstrated to CyclingTips how such motors work.

He was unavailable for comment at the time of writing but Kathy LeMond indicated her dismay that the National Assembly hadn’t taken the opportunity to strengthen the battle.

“This creates a barrier to preventing mechanical doping in cycling,” she told CyclingTips on Friday. “Without this authority the French police are unable to carry out searches and are forced to rely on the UCI and their detection methods.”

A senior French source told CyclingTips in 2016 that police requests to the UCI to weigh wheels – and thus detect rumoured electromagnetic motors concealed there – had been refused. He said that this was a source of frustration at the time.

In October Istvan Varjas, the inventor of hidden motors, also accused the UCI of frustrating French police at the 2016 Tour.

LeMond said that she couldn’t understand how one type of cheating could be banned but not another.

“Why wait to criminalize this if chemical doping is considered a crime?” she stated. “This is no less criminal. We all saw what happened to cycling when they didn’t aggressively police performance-enhancing drugs decades ago.”

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