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France Shoots Down Proposal to Make Mechanical Doping Illegal

By Frantiska Blazkova

You might have already encountered rumours that French government isn’t planning on cracking down on mechanical cheaters any time soon. Politician Mark Le Fur made a proposal that suggested sanctions of up to a year in prison for perpetrators plus a fine of €3,750 for those found in possession of such motors. Organised groups involved in the making, selling or distribution of such devices, would have faced up to seven years in prison and a hefty fine of €150,000. These proposed amounts would have been legally added to the penalties from racing leagues themselves.

However, other two politicians, Jeanine Dubié and French Secretary of State for Sports Thierry Braillard, argued that it was too soon for adapting such measures, the reason being that UCI and national federation checks were already in place. Braillard also stated that another proposed law on the regulation and transparency of professional sport would put the aforementioned federations in charge of carrying out the checks and give them permission to distribute sanctions, if needed.

Thierry Braillard, Secretary of State for Sports.

La Fur raised an objection to this proposal, stating that relying only on federations was insufficient and that another legislative body should be overseeing such cases. Nonetheless, he didn’t manage to persuade the support he needed for the law to pass, even though he had a compelling argument, saying: “If the sanction must be a sporting one, it can only be a sporting one,” he stated. “If the phenomenon we are talking about develops, which no one wishes, it will be necessary to give the police forces and possibly the public prosecutor the opportunity to act, and allow judges to punish if necessary.”

One of the loudest critics of the technological fraud has also been the triple Tour de France champion Greg LeMond and his wife Kathy, who commented: “This creates a barrier to preventing mechanical doping in cycling. Without this authority the French police are unable to carry out searches and are forced to rely on the UCI and their detection methods.”

The Union Cycliste Internationale suspended Femke Van den Driessche for 6 years for violating its rules relating to ‘technical fraud’. She has also been given a fine of CHF 20,000, has been ordered to pay the costs of the proceedings against her and has been disqualified from all the races going as far back as October 11th 2015 and ordered to return the medals and prize money.

Do no fret though, it doesn’t mean that the French government is paid by secret cycling mafia and endorses mechanical doping, of course. It’s rather that this draft of such law was too harsh and rushed and not entirely necessary with existing precautions and controls in place.

However, Le Fur was invited to rework his proposal to some degree of compromise and this time it was approved. Under this new draft, the government could submit a report on the criminalisation of technological fraud plus increase the power of the French anti-doping agency in this area before December 31, 2017. Approval of such measures would make it possible to ban and illegalize cheating in the near future.