For decades, the world of cycling has struggled to come to terms with the amount of doping in the sport. Lance Armstrong leads a long list of athletes who have used performance-enhancing substances to win, but in recent years, technology has given rise a new form of cheating: hidden motors. With the world's most famous cycling race just a few days away, Tour de France officials will utilize thermal cameras to detect so-called "mechanical doping," putting would-be cheats on notice.
In a statement, Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) -- cycling's world governing body -- confirmed that it will "have the resources in place to conduct between 3,000 and 4,000 tests." Thermal cameras have been set up by the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission at the request of the French government and can be used on the back of a motorcycle or on the side of the road.
The UCI says it will also employ "unpredictable" testing protocols, including manual bike checks and magnetic scans, to ensure no Tour de France rider is gaining an unfair advantage.
Earlier this year, officials at the cyclocross World Championships found a motor in a bike ridden by Belgian star Femke Van den Driesshe. The professional cyclist received a six-year ban for hiding a Vivax motor and battery in the seat tube of her bike, was stripped of all her titles and handed a 20,000 CHF (20,569 US dollar) fine.
"Since the beginning of the year, we are sending a clear message which is that there is literally no-where to hide for anyone foolish enough to attempt to cheat in this way," said UCI President Brian Cookson. "A modified bike is extremely easy to detect with our scanners and we will continue to deploy them extensively throughout the Tour and the rest of the season."