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British Cycling has stripped Cameron Jeffers of his national e-racing title, plus banned him from racing in the real world, after it discovered he’d cheated at the first-ever e-racing nationals.
How does one cheat at e-nationals? There are a couple of simple ways, like playing with claimed rider weight, which affects the watts per kilogram that e-racing uses to determine speed. But organizers take pains to make such obvious cheating difficult. Jeffers instead used another part of the game — equipment upgrades.
Zwift, the platform used for Britain’s e-nationals, allows riders to update their equipment. Jeffers unlocked what is called a “Tron” bike, which made him faster on race day. The use of the Tron bike itself was not what got Jeffers in trouble. Rather, it was his use of an automated system to unlock the bike.
There are multiple equipment options that Zwift users can upgrade to, usually by completing a particular challenge or reaching a certain “level” within the game. That was the case with Jeffers and the Tron bike. But rather than complete the required challenge himself, he used a simulator to do the required climbing for him.
“Essentially an ANT+ simulator was used to climb the 50,000m [required] in game to unlock the bike which means I didn’t personally operate Zwift to unlock the bike,” Jeffers said in a statement.
The website ZwiftInsider lists the Tron bike as the fastest available Zwift bike, ahead of the Cervelo S5, Trek Madone, and Canyon Aeroad.
The advantage isn’t massive. Completing a regular lap of Zwift’s Watopia figure-8 circuit at the same power and weight, the Tron bike saves 16 seconds over the standard “Zwift Aero” bike, dropping a rider’s time from 51’08” to 50’52, according to ZwiftInsider, which conducted the testing.
“I accept this practice was unethical and unsporting and I have fully cooperated with BC on their investigation,” Jeffers said. “I fully believe in esports and its part in cycling’s future. I will continue to support it and use what I have learnt from my mistakes to help shape it as it grows.”
The penalty is a six-month suspension from all racing, not just e-racing, plus a £250 fine.
“Defending fair play in our competitions is at the core of our responsibilities as a governing body,” said British Cycling integrity and compliance director Rod Findlay in a statement. “The fact that we have been able to investigate the offense and uphold the charge reflects the strength of our new disciplinary regulations and our determination to pursue misconduct.”
James Phillips, initially the runner-up, has been declared the new national champ.