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Tour de France To Use Thermal Cameras To Spot Cheats (npr.org) 158

An anonymous reader writes: At this year's Tour de France, thermal cameras and various other tools will be used to detect "mechanical doping." The image tests can be done anywhere and their locations will not be publicized, according to officials. NPR reports: "As far back as at least 2010, accusations have flown that elite cyclists were turning in superhuman performances with the help of motors that are hidden inside their bike's seat tube. Commercial versions of such devices can provide a steady power stream of around 200 watts -- the lower range of a pro cyclist's average output in a stage race. They can also be set to assist riders automatically if their pedaling cadence falls below a certain threshold. Tour de France officials explain how the detection system will work: 'Developed by the CEA (the French Atomic Energy Commission), the method consists of using a thermal imaging camera capable of detecting mechanical anomalies on the riders' bikes. The checks can be made in the race and on the side of the roads.'"
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Tour de France To Use Thermal Cameras To Spot Cheats

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  • What about drug testing?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Drug testing the thermal cameras or the bikes?

    • This is another matter - much less cheating in this area after Lance Armstrong doping scandal [wikipedia.org].
      • by ls671 ( 1122017 )

        But, but, I Soviet Russia, we get barred from the Olympic Games.

      • Your a trusting person aren't you?

        We will never know the politics behind Armstrong being made an example of.

        I bet you believe cross country skiing has the roids under control too?

        They all just have new roids that the test isn't finding.

    • Why not make them display what they use? That way we'd at least get to see what stuff works.

      • by Shoten ( 260439 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2016 @07:34AM (#52404983)

        Why not make them display what they use? That way we'd at least get to see what stuff works.

        At what point would they do this, exactly? And what would keep them from swapping out the bike before/after?

        I get a feeling that a lot of the people commenting on this article have never actually watched professional cycling. They all say "the bike" like there's only one bicycle in use here; in fact, multiple types of bikes are used, as well as multiple instances of each bike. Watch the support cars; you'll see spare wheels and even entire spare bikes on some of them. So playing a shell game whereby you swap an inspected bike out with one that hasn't been checked...and then, before the finish line, swap them back again...would be relatively simple.

        • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2016 @08:02AM (#52405137) Homepage

          Personally, I think they should do away with team cars. There's too much furniture on the road anyway, and things are getting unsafe. Have neutral service cars with spare wheels, which are pretty much all compatible at this point.

          If your whole frame breaks, or some other crucial part such that you need a new bike, they should just be forced to take a neutral service bike so they can finish the stage, but I don't see much reason why somebody should feel the need to win the stage if their bike breaks half way through the stage. Note that it has happened that somebody went on to win the stage on a teammate's bike that was the wrong size.

        • Why not make them display what they use? That way we'd at least get to see what stuff works.

          At what point would they do this, exactly? And what would keep them from swapping out the bike before/after?

          I get a feeling that a lot of the people commenting on this article have never actually watched professional cycling. They all say "the bike" like there's only one bicycle in use here; in fact, multiple types of bikes are used, as well as multiple instances of each bike. Watch the support cars; you'll see spare wheels and even entire spare bikes on some of them. So playing a shell game whereby you swap an inspected bike out with one that hasn't been checked...and then, before the finish line, swap them back again...would be relatively simple.

          i remember a cheating scheme that appeared in the 80s, i think; spectators would hand the competitors water bottles, as usual, and competitors would toss the bottle away when it was empty, as usual, except that at the top of a hill the spectator would hand the competitor a water bottle filled with lead which he would toss away at the bottom.....

    • by Shoten ( 260439 )

      What about drug testing?

      What about it? This has nothing to do with drugs; this is a way of detecting an entirely new method of cheating. It's not replacing or displacing drug testing.

      Think of it like this: with the advent of computer-based crime came new forms of fraud and new laws to prosecute them. They didn't throw any of the existing laws out as a result, however.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      There's already a massive amount of drug testing for professional cyclists. Sure, the cheaters can and do find new drugs to cheat with but it's getting a lot harder. There's also pretty stringent testing for blood doping through transfusions in addition to the testing for EPO that's been in place for a long time. Cycling is one of the sports that takes drug testing very seriously and has caught a lot of cheats. Maybe there are cheats out there using new performance enhancing drugs that aren't yet tested for

    • To make sure they are doing enough drugs?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why not just xray all competitors bikes airport style?

    • by quenda ( 644621 )

      Why not just xray all competitors bikes airport style?

      Because its too late to look for drugs, and there are much easier ways to find motors.
      A metal detector or magnetic sensor (such as in smartphones) will do the job.
      And thermal cameras can do it quickly from a distance.
      If you see an anomaly, you put an endoscope camera down the tubes.

      That works until the cheats get a ceramic compressed-air powered motor in there.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So how much LN2 will the tires need to hold (and slowly release) to fool the thermal cameras?

    • by Agripa ( 139780 )

      So how much LN2 will the tires need to hold (and slowly release) to fool the thermal cameras?

      Why add active cooling? Seal the frame, evacuate it, and add some distilled water or alcohol so it operates as a heat pipe and distributes the heat from the electronics evenly throughout the frame.

  • by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Monday June 27, 2016 @09:50PM (#52403307)
    If we gonna pretend to try to stop all of the cheating in professional sports we might as well do away with professional sports.
    • It you ain't cheating you ain't trying

    • by SvnLyrBrto ( 62138 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2016 @01:32AM (#52403997)

      Seriously, I think it's well past time we stop thinking of professional sports as some kind of special or noble endeavor, and acknowledge their "athletes" for what they really are: entertainers. Pro sports are a multi-billion dollar for-profit business. No actually, they're a collection of several multi-billion dollar for-profit businesses. And it's show business, pure and simple. Steph Curry's and LeBron James' jobs are not to put the ball through the hoop. It's not really David Beckham's job to kick the ball into the goal. And it's not the job of those 11 guys to put their ball in the end zone. In all cases, their real jobs are to put on a show that sells arena and stadium seats and puts eyeballs on the television screens.

      So why not just drop the pretense, acknowledge pro "athletes" for what they really are, quit obsessing about how they attain their performance levels, and just let them put on a good show? After all... We don't drug test Lady Gaga just after the Grammys, and take hers back if she tests positive for pot (Which she's admitted using, saying it makes her more creative.). Nor do we randomly drug test the Rolling Stones and suspend Keith Richards for the next ten tour dates if he tests positive for... well, it's Keith Richards. Take your pick.

      • I think you're on to something with the drug test idea. It would certainly make the Grammys and other self congratulating award shows more interesting.
      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        If you allow drug you, you pretty much mandate it for an athlete to be successful. No amount of training or dedication will put you in the same league as another athlete using drugs or other cheat devices. And using drugs is risky, with the risk of detection being the only thing that really limits dose right now. If you allow drug use, you are going to see a lot of overdosing, addiction, ruined health and early death.

        There is no good solution, just like it's basically impossible to fairly divide all athlete

        • . Maybe the way forward is to move focus away from sports like athletics and cycling where doping is extremely effective, and towards sports like football and golf where it's much less beneficial. Remove the incentive.

          You obviously haven't had much to do with professional footballers (any code) or golfers. I can guarantee you drugs would help them immensely. There have been cases in both sports.

          Golf - steroids will allow much more power hence much farther drives. Something like a beta blocker to slow the heart rate down would help with steady hands for the putts.

          Football (soccer) - has a cardio/speed component - similar to athletics doping.
          Football (american) - has speed component in running backs etc - doping like 100m

          • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

            Golf - steroids will allow much more power hence much farther drives

            Except drive distance isn't necessarily a indicator of overall golf performance. If you're on a 400 yard hole, it doesn't matter that much if you drive it 300 yards and have a 100 yard approach, or drive it 350 yards and have a 50 yard one. It's a few years old, but here's a pga.com article [pga.com] about how almost all of the long ballers didn't make the cut for the 2012 US Open.

            I'd say that doping for power is less of a factor in golf than doping

            • by swb ( 14022 )

              Wasn't John Daly really good at distance driving?

              • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

                2000-2002 he had the highest average driving distance* over the season of any Tour golfer. Oddly enough those years weren't his longest averages of his career though. And there is only about a 15 yard difference since 2000 between his lowest average and highest average.

                * drive distance statistics are measured twice per round selected on 2 holes that face approximately opposite directions to counteract any effects from wind.

        • If you allow drug you, you pretty much mandate it for an athlete to be successful.

          The sad truth is that we're already there, because drug prohibitions in sports have proven to be largely unenforceable.

        • > If you allow drug use, you are going to see a lot of
          > overdosing, addiction, ruined health and early death.

          And this differs from the rest of the entertainment industry... how exactly? Or should I knock up a list of actors, musicians, and etc. who've suffered ODs, addiction, ruined health, and death?

          • A friend of mine explained drug use by entertainers this way: you have access to enough money to buy drugs. You have no assurance that you're going to be working after your current contract. You're going to do what you can to make it more likely that you'll do well in this gig so you'll get another one. The availability, uncertainty, and incentives push strongly towards drug use.

        • I don't see why the downsides (OD, early death, etc.) are a problem. If someone wants to risk those things, let them.

          However, insurance companies should be allowed to deny coverage for anyone who's a pro athlete. If they want to screw up their bodies to compete in these dumb sports, then the consequences should fall entirely on them.

    • Where money / glory is involved, there will always be cheating. Always.

    • we might as well do away with professional sports.

      Sounds good to me. I'm all in favor.

      I think amateur sports are a great thing to get involved in, but pro sports are just a waste of time and money and just a competition to see who's the best at cheating.

      • I think amateur sports are a great thing to get involved in, but pro sports ....

        At least where I'm located amateur sports are mainly a doorway to professional sports. We have supposedly amateur athletes (don't ask where they got those expensive new sports cars) who get through four years at universities taking courses that never really meet and they get As in, but they graduate not only ignorant but in many cases illiterate. And their coaches make more money than all of their other teachers combined (

        • This seems non sequitur to me. I agree about all the crap with university sports, but I don't see how eliminating pro sports would drive drugs and cheating into amateur sports. If there's no monetary rewards to be had in amateur sports at all (if they make money at it, it's "pro" by definition), then what's the incentive to do all that? Bragging points with your neighbors? Keeping the money out of it I think would eliminate all that, because with amateur sports it's just something people do for fun, aft

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's a completely open secret that all top cyclists dope or otherwise cheat, as it is literally impossible to compete at the top level without doing ao. This was why it was so comical to see the chuckle heads who actually believed Lance Armstrong defend him so seriously. It was also equally sad to see the cycling powers that be throw Floyd Landis under the bus for getting caught and then daring to go public about the scale of the cheating problem in the sport.

    I have no doubt that every cyclist who can affo

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I have no doubt that every cyclist who can afford such a motor is using one.

      They can all afford it, and I suspect almost none of them are using a motor.

      Doping, on the other hand, is rampant. And very little of it is ever caught.

  • For the rider and YUGE fine for the team.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    They should check for pants-on-fire.

  • Finally... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by feufeu ( 1109929 )

    Finally the CEA has something important to do, which is trying to raise credibility in a bloody professional sport that no one believes works without any cheating at all anyway. And it has been like this for a long time now.

    Tax money wasted but I have to admit I'd rather have them do this than to develop stuff for nuclear weapons.

    Why doesn't everybody just get over it and enjoy - if at all - the Tour de France for what my mother does - the nice scenery of France live on TV ?!

    • Tax money wasted but I have to admit I'd rather have them do this than to develop stuff for nuclear weapons

      Nowadays CEA is more involved in public matters, like nuclear plants that generate electricity. FYI

  • by Gussington ( 4512999 ) on Monday June 27, 2016 @10:08PM (#52403407)
    Has any other sport ever been associated so much with cheating as cycling? It really is getting ridiculous.
    • Not so many sports are as inhuman as cycling.
    • It's a vicious cycle.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        True, it goes round & round. I mean who would pedal this kind of news?

    • by quenda ( 644621 )

      Has any other sport ever been associated so much with cheating as cycling? It really is getting ridiculous.

      Plenty of sports have endemic drug-use, though they don't make as much noise about being clean, and maybe its not cheating if everyone does it.

      • Re:Tour de Cheat? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Vegan Cyclist ( 1650427 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2016 @12:35AM (#52403891) Homepage
        This. A lot of professional sports, from baseball to wrestling, have systemic doping....the difference is cycling has clamped down on it, where many others still turn a blind eye. When they look, they'll find it as well.
        • This. A lot of professional sports, from baseball to wrestling, have systemic doping...the difference is cycling has clamped down on it, where many others still turn a blind eye. When they look, they'll find it as well.

          Soccer? Rugby? Tennis? Golf? Yachting? I don't think it's as wide-spread as you think. Maybe some sports that require actual skill need drugs less, since drugs don't really help. In sports where it is simple endurance or strength then it does.
          Funny thing is that I find those strength/endurance type sports the least entertaining to watch.

          • This. A lot of professional sports, from baseball to wrestling, have systemic doping...the difference is cycling has clamped down on it, where many others still turn a blind eye. When they look, they'll find it as well.

            Soccer? Rugby? Tennis? Golf? Yachting? I don't think it's as wide-spread as you think.
            Maybe some sports that require actual skill need drugs less, since drugs don't really help. In sports where it is simple endurance or strength then it does.

            Funny thing is that I find those strength/endurance type sports the least entertaining to watch.

            The GP said "a lot" of professional sports, not all. You list a few, that does not invalidate his point.

            Having said that, the sports you listed are BAD examples. They are not the ones "turning a blind eye" because they are under the same anti-doping initiatives as cycling etc. The examples the OP mentions are sports not signed up to the world anti-doping authority. Those include (AFAIK) baseball, wrestling, ufc, ...

            Even then there are still people who cheat when they think they can get away with it. Take te

            • Cross country skiing is as bad a cycling.

              IIRC there was an Olympics where they applied new tests about a year afterward and recalled all the medals (in one event anyhow, the long one). I think they should have given them out to the end runners that were 'clean', that has to take dedication and deserves recognition.

          • I feel Cycling is a skill sport but that's besides the point. I want to address the "skill sports" not needing drugs line which I think is a lie told so often it is accepted as the truth. For Soccer and Tennis - there is nothing to gain from catching doping. Absolutely nothing. If you catch drugs cheats in the Premier League you don't gain anything at all, you damage a multi-billion pound brand. This "skill sports" line is what everyone from the top to the bottom tells the public to deflect away.

            For soc
            • there is nothing to gain from catching doping. Absolutely nothing.

              Apart from public shaming, banning from international events, and massive legal implications you mean?

              Rugby has the highest number of athletes serving drug suspensions in the UK.

              Maybe this is a UK thing, and maybe it explains why until Eddie Jones took over they have been so shit. Until last month, NZ and Australia were the best teams in the world, and they have mandatory testing programs. The likes of Dan Carter and Johnny Wilkinson are not the best because they are the fastest or strongest. It's because they have skills drugs can't buy. They've also both had extended injury recor

    • My favorite example was divulged in Lance's discussion with Joe Rogan. According to him (and, I guess, consider the source), cyclists have bitten down on a piece of cork tied to fishing line, pulled by a vehicle ahead. Getting pulled along by your teeth just to get a tiny bit extra seems right up there on the ridiculous meter.
  • Racing bikes are stupid light. (Actually they are about 14 lbs.) Pick the bike up. Shake it. If it feels light, it is fine. If there is a 2 lbs motor and battery pack in it, you'll me able to feel the weight. Plus, you know the motor is near the crank. The moment of inertial will be all wrong. Racing bike don't have saddle packs, and they certainly don't have saddle packs with batteries.
    If you pick up 100+ bike a day, after a while, you will be able to sense: "Wow, this one is different".
    Bike mechani

    • The thing is, bikes are changed many times by teams during the race. That would be impractical.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Except for one small detail: the UCI enforces a minimum bike weight - any bike used for racing in a UCI sanctioned event must be at least 6.8 kg. These days, it's not difficult to get hold of a bike that weighs less than that - for example, a Specialized Tarmac weighs in at around 6.4-6.6 kg (depending on size), and that's a commercially available bike. To make up the difference, pro riders add weights, typically tungsten; if you're going to put a motor in a bike, that just means you need to add less weight

    • There are minimum weight rules in place. So all you need is a bike that is lower than the minimum and fit a motor.

    • The saddle packs are only used in the standard kits; there are other kits that hide the batteries in a water-bottle, for example. Femke Van den Driessche was recently banned for using one such hidden-away setup (the button to engage the motor was even hidden in the handlebar tape), and it certainly wasn't evident by glancing that the bike was rigged.
      • Given that common lithium-ion battery cells (e.g. 18650) are cylindrical, sticking the pack in the seat tube seems like the obvious choice.

    • You can get 12lb race bikes, and many, if not most professional race bikes actually have weight (literal, lead weights) inserted in places like the frame, in order to get the bike to the minimum of 6.8kg/15.99lbs. Bikes are ridiculously light these days, and something like this is actually quite possible (and 200 watts is actually a lot of power, if any amateur racer were able to pedal an extra 200w for an hour, they'd be catapulted to the higher elite levels instantly.) It's very possible one might not act
    • Re:cheaper way (Score:4, Informative)

      by dunkelfalke ( 91624 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2016 @02:45AM (#52404157)

      Not quite right. UCI sets a minimum weight of a bike (6.8 kg), but enough technologies exist to make bicycles much lighter than that. If you don't want to compete, you can build a 3.38 kg bicycle [light-bikes.de], which is half the minimum weight. There are full suspension mountain bikes that come close to the UCI limit FFS. You won't be able to feel the motor inside one of these.

  • Better Idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    Cancel the event for the next ten years. It's a sham anyway.
  • A better title would be "Tour de France announces precisely how it's going to keep an eye out for cheating so everyone can change their processes enough that nobody embarrasses the Tour."

    Let's keep in mind what's really important.

    • This. The doping limits are set too high to catch anyone except those who are really sloppy. The short bans are slaps on the wrist. It is all a sham.

  • by DriveDog ( 822962 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2016 @10:49AM (#52406371)
    "Mechanical doping" reminds me of the infamous 1973 Soap Box Derby cheat.
  • this is doping in the same sense that calling an uber to carry you and your bike to the finish line is doping.

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