In April Stade 2 aired a program detailing the alleged use of mechanical doping and motor use within the professional peloton and amateur races over the past years, and claimed that hidden motors may have been used in two Italian races this year when Stade 2 used thermal imaging cameras to detect their use. Stade 2 also demonstrated in a staged situation how thermal imaging cameras could be effective in detecting mechanical doping.
Part 2 of the Stade 2 investigation aired on Sunday (video at the bottom of this article) and claims during the 2015 Tour de France that UCI technical manager Mark Barfield alerted e-bike manufacturer Typhoon Bikes of police enquiries regarding a ‘Hungarian’ visiting the Tour de France to sell bikes. Stade 2 obtained copies of the emails and the text of the email from Mark Barfield to Harry Gibbings of Typhoon Bikes is below.
Do you have a phone number I can all you on straight away, I’m sitting with French police who believe an engineer ‘Hungarian’ is Visiting TDF today to sell a bike and visit teams, could this be your guy???
Call me on 004179 [obscured] if you can??
Harry Gibbings then forwards that email on to an employee of Typhoon Bikes, Stephano Varjas. Hungarian Stephano Varjas featured in the first Stade 2 program as an expert on the use of mechanical doping and was an employee of Typhoon from January 2015 until December 2015.
“I was doing family stuff yesterday when this mail came in from a guy in the UCI so I didn’t see it until late in the evening. The French police have opened a file on ‘motor doping’ and will prosecute under ‘anti cheating’ laws. I have given no information on Stefano or any of the customers from the past only saying that Typhoon were happy to help in anyway possible to try and detect a similar system in racing bikes.
My understanding is that I will be contacted again in the future. Nobody has asked me for the names of Typhoon’s engineers yet.
Bill doesn’t know about this at the moment, but we are due to meet at some point today when I’ll have to tell him.
I don’t need to tell you guys this is a very big and serious mess.
As I get anymore information I will pass along to you.”
The authenticity of the emails were confirmed by Harry Gibbings later in the video.
On June 9 during the Critérium du Dauphiné Stade 2 showed the emails to Mark Barfield who confirmed it was sent. Yesterday the UCI issued this statement.
The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has consulted experts from a wide variety of backgrounds – including university academics, mechanical, electronic and software engineers, and bike suppliers – in the process of developing an effective method of detecting technological fraud.
The person interviewed in the Stade 2 report was among those consulted by the UCI in order to fully understand the technologies available and hence how to detect cases of technological fraud.
The UCI has full confidence in its staff employed in this area. It will investigate whether emails sent in 2015 to an external consultant were passed on to a third party and used in a way that no-one intended.
Questions remain for the UCI
When you view the Stade 2 video there are some obvious questions raised that should be addressed by the UCI, instead we have a statement that is both naive and arrogant. Naive in the sense that cycling fans and riders would believe that being a consultant for the UCI is a reason to be allegedly receive alerts regarding police inquiries. And arrogant in that the UCI believe the biggest issue is the leak, not the email event itself.
The UCI should be answering why Mark Barfield thought it was appropriate to alert a UCI consultant to a police investigation. Surely the objective is to catch potential cheats in the act? How was the email in any way going to assist that or add any value to the UCI objective of developing technology to detect mechanical doping?
Why the delay in the UCI issuing a statement? It was known the emails were in the hands of a third party since June 9? Why wait until after the program aired to make a statement? Are there more emails?
Is the UCI capable of testing for mechanical doping or should it be given to an independent body? Christian Prudhomme told Stade 2 “An independent body is needed to deal with fraud – whatever it may be – and not the sports bodies themselves.” and that thermal imaging cameras should be incorporated in UCI testing as well.
Is there more to follow? I would say almost certainly we will see a part 3 before the Tour de France.