Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Doped Bicycle

Davide Cassani is the well known cycling commentator for Italian broadcaster RAI. In 1982 he made his professional debut with Termolan-Galli. In 1986 he moved to Carrera, where he supported figures such as Claudio Chiappucci, Roberto Visentini and Stephen Roche; Cassani later raced for Gewiss-Bianchi, Ariostea, GB-MG and Saeco. He retired in 1996. He is a winner of two Giro d'Italia stages.

In 2007, during coverage of the Tour de France when Michael Rasmussen was on his way to winning the yellow jersey, Cassani made a passing remark that he had seen Rasmussen training in the Dolomites. This began the eventual controversy that resulted in the expulsion of Rasmussen from the Rabobank team and the Tour de France on the basis that Rasmussen had previously claimed he had been in Mexico at the time Cassani had seen him.

During this year's Giro d'Italia, Cassani reported on RAI about a "doped bicycle", a bike with a hidden motor. At first there was disbelief. Subsequently the UCI decided to investigate the matter further.

Yesterday, journalist Michael Bufalino was heard by the Turin police in the investigation opened by the Turin prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello into sporting fraud by the use motorized bikes among professional cyclists. Bufalino is the author of a Youtube video that focuses on Fabian Cancellara victories in this year's Spring Classics of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

Here is the Cassani report as it appeared on RAI. The important points he makes are: a) the bike has existed since 2004, b) the bike has been used in professional races, c) that he could win a stage in the Giro d'Italia at the age of 50 years old using this bike, d) the entire mechanism is invisible; it is activated by a button on the shift lever.

Here is the video (with English subtitles)that was created by journalist Michael Bufalino.

Team Saxo Bank has issued a strongly worded statement denying that Fabian Cancellara or any rider in Bjarne Riis' team has ever used any form of ‘mechanical doping’ and has dismissed a popular video circulating on the internet that investigates the use of an electric engine as ‘a work of fiction, disguised as documentary.’

“Team Saxo Bank rejects all insinuations and accusations that have been made in the media regarding Fabian Cancellara's alleged use of an electric motor in his bike. Team Saxo Bank is strongly opposed to any form of cheating and there is absolutely no truth to this story. There was not and never has been a motor in any Team Saxo Bank rider's bike,” the statement reads.

“Fabian's victories in Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix embody everything that is beautiful about our sport, strength, endurance, suffering, passion, drama and teamwork. Fabian's victories are the result of dedication, hard work and sacrifice as well as his unique ability to rise to the occasion when striving to reach his goals. We are confident that the public can see through the nonsense this myth has presented and respect Fabian for what he is. A true Champion.”

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