Thermal imaging cameras in use again to prevent motors at the Tour de France

by Shane Stokes


DÜSSELDORF, Germany (CT) – French authorities have said that additional technology to prevent the use of concealed motors will again be in use during this year’s Tour de France, with independent checks to be carried out utilising thermal imaging cameras.

The initiative was in place last year and has been offered once again by the French Minister of Sports Laura Flessel and the French Cycling Federation (FFC) President Michel Callot. It would be used alongside the UCI’s handheld magnetic resistance-based tests.

CyclingTips understands that the UCI will also use thermal imaging cameras at times.

“The control system set up by the Centre of Research of the Department of Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies (CEA) in 2016, and its proven reliability, will be renewed this year,” said the sports ministry and the FFC in a joint statement.

“In order to detect any motorized elements in bicycles used in racing, the controllers will use thermal imaging technology thanks, in particular, to cameras of very high definition.

“These checks will be carried out independently, under the auspices of the International Cycling Union.”

A FFC spokesperson clarified the execution of the tests, saying that the CEA itself will be the body to carry out such checks.

She also confirmed that, unlike the UCI’s handheld iPad tests, the thermal camera examinations can be carried out while the riders are in motion. She added that it was not possible to give more information about either the number of the tests or when they would be carried out.

The same examinations have been used in the French national championships. They work by picking up the heat signatures given off by motors.

The statement by the sports ministry plus the FFC underlined the importance of battling this and other forms of rule-breaking.

“This initiative confirms the French authorities’ strong commitment to combating all forms of cheating, which undermine the values of sport, discourage sporting results and performances and threaten both the integrity of competitions and the health of athletes,” it said.

“Thus, the Ministries of Sports and Higher Education, Research and Innovation have begun to collaborate in this direction, which they will pursue in the months to come in order to strengthen the role of technological innovation in the control of competitions, but also in the pursuit of athletic performance.”

The message concluded by saying that the initiative was a firm message to all those who wanted to break the sporting rules of the Tour de France and all other events organised in the country.

Technological fraud, or mechanical doping, is regarded as a major threat to the sport, although thus far only one rider has been caught using such a system. This was the under 23 rider Femke Van den Driessche, who was given a six-year ban after her spare bike at the 2016 world cyclocross championships was found to have a concealed motor.

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