French amateur given five year suspension for hidden motor use

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Caught using a motor in a third category race on October 1, French amateur Cyril Fontaine has been handed a five year ban from the sport. According to Le Figaro, the 43 year old was notified of the sanction in mid-January, with that ban from being handed down by the disciplinary commission of the French Federation of cycling (FFC). It had met to discuss the matter on December 29th.

Fontaine had registered a miraculous series of results across several weeks last year, riding far above his former level and beating riders who were previously much better than him. That transformation came after he stopped using his expensive S Works machine and instead switched to a cheaper frame he claimed his friends bought on the internet for 1500 euro.

His performances soared, including a strong ride in the first category Grand Prix des Eyzies event.

Fontaine’s run came to an end in a third category event held in Saint-Michel de Double, about fifty kilometres south-west of Périgueux. He had spent much of the race in a break with Mathys Fédrigo, nephew of former pro Pierrick Fédrigo. Despite the latter’s pedigree, he suffered to hold his pace.

Fontaine’s ride was scrutinised by officials during the event, including former French professional and current French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) employee Christophe Bassons. The rider reportedly noticed them watching him, then punctured out of the event with for laps remaining, returned to his car and drove off.

Bassons quickly went to his car and gave pursuit, motioning for Fontaine to pull over. The duo were joined by judicial officials from Périgueux. When the bike was examined, Bassons found a battery concealed in a bottle and a motor in the downtube.

The device was subsequently displayed in a video made by France3, in which Bassons discusses the motor and how it was installed.

France3 also broadcast a video showing both his arrest and him racing beforehand.

Following the detection of the motor, Fontaine was arrested and brought to the Périgueux police station, where he faced charges of sporting fraud.

Fontaine’s five year ban is a year shorter than the sanction imposed on the Belgian cyclocross rider Femke Van den Driessche in 2016. She had the dubious distinction of being the first competitor found with a motor, with the device in question being detected in her spare bike at that year’s world cyclocross championships.

In addition to her six year ban, she was fined 20,000 Swiss francs. However, despite the then-UCI President Brian Cookson saying at the time that it was possible that others would also face punishment, no members of her entourage have been sanctioned to date. The reasoned decision about her case was also never made public.

Van den Driessche was just 19 years old at the time and almost certainly did not act alone.

Also nabbed was a 53-year-old Italian amateur. He was caught using hidden motor at an event in Bedizzole, near Brescia, in July of last year. According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, that device was detected using a thermal camera.

The new UCI president David Lappartient has vowed to ramp up the fight against hidden motors. He has said that a range of methods will be unveiled towards the end of next month. CyclingTips understands that additional measures may be implemented before then, including at this weekend’s world cyclocross championships.

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