"These steroid injections really hurt. Fuck it just put an engine on it."
From the looks of it, being a professional cyclist seems easy. It looks like all you need to be able to do is 1) ride a bike and 2) cheat your dick off.
Following years of doping scandals and allegations of steroid use that culminated with Lance Armstrong admitting he used steroids, you'd think dishonesty in professional cycling would be practically impossible. Well it's not. Not at all. It's gotten more sophisticated.
Reports show that there has been an increase in the number of "mechanical doping" allegations in professional cycling. Though mechanical doping sounds like a Swedish industrial metal band from the early '90s, it really just means cyclist have figured out ways to put tiny silent engines inside their bikes.
There are two varieties of mechanical doping. One method involves rigging a motor inside the frame of a bike that removes the resistance from pedaling. The motor is controlled by a hidden switch on the handlebars and is primarily used on uphill climbs. With less resistance, the cyclist is able to fly up the hill and can pass his competition with ease.
The other form of mechanical doping places a motor in the bikes back wheel that propels the bike forward. This system is far less powerful than the motors attached at the pedals, but still provides plenty of power that it would be hugely beneficial for a professional cyclist. These back wheel motors are less helpful on steep uphill climbs, but can help when dramatically when a cyclists is cruising on flat land.
In total, the motors near the pedals can generate up to about 250 watts, while the rear wheel motors can generate only around 25 watts. Either way, that is an enormous advantage when you are racing against people that aren't essentially riding mopeds in the Tour de France.
These motors don't come cheap, but that is of little worry to a pro cyclist. Discrete motors hidden inside a bike can range anywhere from about $11,000 to $28,000. At that price you might as well just buy a motorcycle and give up on cycling all together. If you have to drop 20 grand on an engine to win a bike race, you probably have no reason to be in the race in the first place.
The French cycling union (UCI) is looking into ways to combat this growing problem. UCI has looked into thermal imaging cameras to detect the heat from an internal motor and at possible ways to X-ray bikes or use ultrasonic tests. So far there is no foolproof way to test bikes for mechanical doping other than just taking the bike apart.
So really it just seems that professional cycling is permanently fucked. People will always be cheating. Our suggestion – let everyone take steroids. Or, maybe they should just turn the Tour de France into a motorcycle race?
Photo credit: Independent