Some time ago – not too long after the Femke Van den Driessche motor doping story – we came across the website dopedbikes.com. On its pages it offered a hard-to-detect and discreet way of adding a motor to your race bike – all pitched in the confidential tones of a doctor who would help you ‘prepare’ for your big race for a fee, but without asking any questions. There was even a beautiful 3D rendition of a motor, driving a bottom bracket round.
And just to be sure of the intent, it promised that the system was ‘Race ready, easy to install’ – to clarify that it wasn’t just a new neat way of riding an e-bike, but a concealed way of getting more speed when racing…
We did a bit of digging around, and other than the owner’s name, Roberto Bassi, and the fact it was registered in February 2016, we couldn’t dig out anything further. The site had been registered through a proxy, and to find out any information you were invited to submit questions or comments along with your personal details.
It was all a bit odd, and we didn’t run a story on it in the end since we weren’t really sure what we were dealing with – was it a scam, a genuine purveyor of goods for cheats, or something else?
Well, today it’s been revealed that we were right to be suspicious, and our spidey senses were accurate – for this was set up as a Honey Trap to lure in people who want to cheat, and to gauge just how much of a culture of cheating there is in cycling.
The website originally advertised a motor which could be concealed in your bike, and firmly pitched itself in the ‘no one will ever know you’ve got a motor’ side of things. There was no question that this was about e-bikes: it was set out as a cheat without getting caught scenario.
Having successfully sucked people in, the original website has now been revealed as a ‘Honey Trap’, and has been replaced by examples of the requests that were made to the site. They’re all redacted, but the people behind the site claim to have enquiries from team managers and large distributors.
And who are the people behind the site? The press release, from ‘Robert Bassi’ or ‘Bobbi B’ states:
‘We are a collective of riders and cycle industry insiders who are concerned about the use of hidden motors in cycle races and sportives.’
The press release continues:
‘Re-assuringly, the response from grass roots cyclists has been one of disdain towards being able to cheat in cycle races. We received hundreds of emails overwhelmingly against hidden motors.
‘Unfortunately we also received emails from trade publications keen to take our money to promote these motors, team managers interested to find out more, overseas retailers wanting to stock them and individuals eager to be able to purchase a system that would allow them to cheat their fellow competitors.
‘It’s worth stating, there are other legitimate motors on the market that are suitable for assisted riding that are a great boon for the cycling industry. The motor systems we were proposing were fully hidden, designed to not be found in a race and consequently offered at a premium price to reflect this. The only people they would attract would be those looking to cheat their fellow riders.’
We’re not too clear whether the enquiries they’ve received have been passed to the relevant cycling authorities – we have asked and we’ll let you know if we hear back.
The perpetrators – if that’s the right word – of this sting operation are hoping that their actions will have some positive outcomes, by highlighting the issue of motor doping and increasing awareness. Here’s what they say:
‘One of the highlights for us was that after reaching out to select UK bike clubs by email, there wasn’t a single scintilla of interest from UK grass roots cycling clubs, in-fact from monitoring their Facebook pages and club forums we could see the sentiment across the board was 100% anti-cheating, something the UK cycling club community can be very proud of.
‘However, from looking at the technology available we strongly believe unscrupulous amateurs will start using these types of systems to cheat in grass roots events. We strongly urge British Cycling, Cycling Time Trials and the British Triathlon Federation to set up a joint committee to share information and when this happens.’
What do you think? A non issue for mountain biking? Entirely predictable responses? Or does the cycling world’s murky depths have no bottom?