Ironman Announces Testing for Bike Motors

(See update below) Ironman announced today testing for what it calls mechanical fraud, aimed at discrete motors in the crank and rear hub areas that assist the rider. The global triathlon producer says it is partnering with the UCI – cycling’s governing body – to inoculate its races against this relatively new form of cheating.

Ironman has an advantage the UCI does not have: T2. It, “will be actively inspecting bicycles at races around the world [which] will primarily occur following the bike portion of the event, after athletes have transitioned to the run.”

Because mechanical fraud, or mechanical doping (as it has come to be called) is not inadvertant, and does not flow from a momentary lapse in judgment, Ironman intends to penalize with severity. “The penalty for technological fraud will be disqualification from the relevant event and indefinite suspension from all Ironman events.”

As this is not a class of infraction subject to the WADA code, Ironman is at liberty to determine the fate of the violator at least as regards the race it produces.

Ironman’s statement today did not delve into the technical details of the testing, but the UCI announced its program yesterday and said that “magnetic flux density” will be the process used. It discounted heat signatures or x-rays.

What is unanswered – Ironman’s press team is researching this and will report back – is how and whether magnetic flux density can be measured while the bike is not in operation. Yes, there should be permanent magnets in the motor, theoretically recognizable by a flux meter. But will the signal be strong enough if the motor is not working? We will report back the answer.

Updated: the UCI's technical head, Mark Barfield, responded to a question about whether the technology works on idle bikes: "Yes our testing method will detect a motor that is off, one that is not connected to a battery, one that is connected to a flat battery or one that isn't connected at all. It will detect control components and batteries as well."