Speaking two days in advance of a 60 Minutes special on the use of technological fraud, or mechanical doping, in cycling, the inventor of the hidden motors has said such devices may have been in the pro peloton for almost 20 years.
Istvan Varjas has told 60 Minutes that he designed a motor in 1998 and was offered nearly $2 million for a ten year exclusivity deal. Under that agreement, he agreed not to work on such motors, nor to sell them or speak of them.
He told 60 minutes that he believes the motors were used during that timeframe.
The Hungarian inventor has absolved himself of any blame, saying that it is not his responsibility if pro riders used such a machine.
“If a grandfather came and buy a bike and after it’s go to…his grandson who is racing, it’s not my problem,” he said to 60 Minutes. And, when asked if he would sell such a machine to someone who said to him they were going to use it to cheat, he answered: “if the money is big, why not?”
60 Minutes quotes triple Tour de France winner Greg LeMond, who has long spoken out against doping and, more recently, against such motors.
“This is curable. This is fixable. I don’t trust it until they figure out…how to– take the motor out. I won’t trust any victories of the Tour de France,” he stated.
In October Varjas first suggested long-term use of hidden motors in the peloton during an interview with the Irish radio show Off The Ball.
“It was the end of ‘98 and I had to stay quiet until 2009, for ten years. It was time for sleeping, ten years,” he told the journalist Ger Gilroy.
“In 1998 I just sold one prototype. To my friend. I got big money, I just go to sleep for ten years and I don’t do anything.
“This one was the first generation of these kind of motors, because these motors came from a military application. At that time it was able to miniaturize with powerful magnets. These motors became very small, you could put in any place. When you have a construction you can put it in any kind of bicycle, it is not a problem. It is just a matter of budget.”
Asked as to how much the prototype cost him, he said that he spent more than 80,000 USD in making it.
Lance Armstrong, who won the Tour de France from 1999 to 2005 but was later stripped of those victories, has denied using such a device. However it remains to be seen if 60 Minutes will offer any information to counter this.
The 60 Minutes report will be broadcast in the US this coming Sunday at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
CyclingTips will have more on this topic after that programme.