mechanicaldoping   The competitive cycling world is being shaken as riders during competitions have be discovered using mechanical assists to help them perform better.  From the AP:

“Caught using a hidden motor at a world championship race, cyclo-cross rider Femke Van Den Driessche of Belgium has been banned from cycling for six years.The sanction imposed Tuesday by the International Cycling Union is a first using its rules on technological fraud.

This case is a major victory for the UCI and all those fans, riders and teams who want to be assured that we will keep this form of cheating out of our sport,” UCI president Brian Cookson said in a statement.

 The UCI banned Van Den Driessche through Oct. 10, 2021, stripped her of the Under-23 European title she won last November and fined her 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,500).
 She must return all prize money and trophies, including her Belgian national title, won since Oct. 11, the UCI disciplinary tribunal ruled.

The 19-year-old rider had said she would skip her disciplinary hearing at the UCI’s Swiss offices and retire from racing.”

Isn’t technology grand?  We have miniaturized engine components enough to fit into a skinny bike frame and at the same time have improved battery performance enough to make this sort of cheating worthwhile.  In the video below, see how it works and possibly see it in action on during professional racing.

I’m not a fan of bike racing or anything but what I find interesting is what the ‘competitive spirit’ can do to people and their moral/ethical character when it comes to high reward activities.

Competition should bring about the best of us, whether it is competing against a time or someone else in an endeavour.  I see nothing wrong with this concept as being committed to a goal and focusing time and energy on it is how many things are accomplished in the world.  However when the stakes are too high, and too fraught with competition, then unethical activities can be realized.

“There may be no Olympic sport as dependent on technology as cycling, whose space-age, feather-light carbon fiber bikes can cost more than a car and make the difference between a gold medal and nothing.

That has also made the sport ripe for an entirely new kind of doping: mechanical.

It has long been rumored that riders were finding ways to hide tiny electrical motors in their frames, or were using magnets in their wheels, to produce a couple of extra watts of power. But it was not until a young cyclocross racer was discovered to have a motor hidden in her bike frame last year that it became a prominent issue.”

   Can we think of cheating as a indicator of when a sport has become too competitive?

   The Cycling Union is taking this threat to the legitimacy of the sport seriously as they are using MRI scanners for the Olympics to ferret out the mechanical dopers.

“The group will work with the International Olympic Committee to test bikes in Rio; both will use proprietary software that the governing body developed for iPads. The system essentially scans a bike for magnetic fields that could indicate the presence of motors, and it is advanced enough to distinguish between illegal technology and the electronic shifting systems that have become common among elite riders.”

   It seems that there is a limit to the usefulness of competitiveness as a motivator to many human endeavours as once a critical moral threshold has been breached, the allure of cheating becomes too strong.  Thus the legitimacy of the sport, built on competition, is undone by that very same factor.

    Similar analogs can be seen in the world of business and trading.  The market works fairly well until rampant greed ruins the party for everyone.  I smell a sociology paper flitting about on this topic as to how the limiting aspects of cheating interact with competitive sports and other activities.

[Source: NY times]

[Source: Associated Press]

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