New York - Team Sky, which has produced four of the past five Tour de France champions, and doping-disgraced Lance Armstrong denied using secret motors in bicycles, a CBS television report said on Sunday.
A segment on the show "60 Minutes" examined the possibility of motorised cheating in pro cycling with three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond, admitted dope cheat ex-rider Tyler Hamilton and Hungarian designer Istvan Varjas, who makes hidden motors for bikes, saying they believe such cheating exists.
"I know the motor is still in the sport," LeMond
said. "There's always a few bad apples because it's a lot of money."
Jean Pierre Verdy, a former French Anti-Doping Agency
testing director, told CBS he had been disturbed by speeds on mountain climbs,
saying informants among riders and team managers told him that about 12 riders
used motors in the 2015 Tour de France.
"They are hurting their sport, but human nature is like
that. Man has always tried to find that magic potion," Verdy said.
Varjas said he told French police he sold secret-motor
cycles to an unknown client just before the 2015 Tour, delivering the bikes to
a locked storage room. He noted one motor design can be hidden inside the hub
of the back wheel but would boost the normal wheel weight by about 800 grams.
In the 2015 Tour de France, peloton bikes were weighed
before a time trial stage, with CBS reporting French authorities said Team Sky
was the only squad with heavier bikes, each about 800 grams more.
"Weight is everything," LeMond said. "If your
bike weighs a kilo more, you would never race on it."
Britain's Chris Froome, riding for Sky, won the 2013, 2015
and 2016 Tour de France crowns. In 2015, he was "King of the
Mountains" for his times in the difficult climbing stages that often prove
decisive. No Tour winner since 1970 had won the mountain crown as well.
A Team Sky spokesman told CBS the team never used mechanical
assistance, saying time trial bikes might be heavier to allow for better
aerodynamics and all Sky bikes were checked and cleared by the International
Cycling Union (UCI).
CBS reported, citing unnamed sources, that UCI would not
allow French investigators in 2015 to remove Team Sky wheels and weigh them
alone to uncover if they were enhanced.
LeMond said UCI must do more to combat motorized cheating.
"This is fixable," LeMond said. "I don't
trust it until they figure out how to take the motor out. I won't trust any
victories of the Tour de France."
Armstrong, an admitted dope cheat who was stripped of seven
Tour de France titles from 1999-2005, denied to CBS through his lawyer ever
using a motor, although his victory run began just after Varjas claims he sold
his first secret-motor bike to an anonymous purchaser with a promise not to
make more or talk of it for 10 years.
"If they offer you $2 million dollar to don't do nothing, can you refuse it? I don't think (so)," he told CBS.
Armstrong's ex-team-mate, Hamilton, said he never knew of any
motors used by US Postal riders.
CBS purchased a 1999 US Postal cycle and had Varjas install
a motor, paying him $12 000 for parts and labour, then had Hamilton ride it.
"It's not super obvious," he said. "I could
see how teams are doing it."
The silent motor made with military-grade metal is powered
by a lithium battery and operated by a secret button, providing a limited power
boost for 20 minutes.
"That's the difference between winning and losing for
sure," Hamilton said. "For sure."
A remote control can connect the motor to heart rate, the
motor starting when a rider's heart rate rises too high, Varjas said.
Varjas said he knew motors were being used by pro riders but
said it's not his problem, adding "If the money is big, why not?"
Varjas claimed Michele Ferrari, banned from cycling for his role in chemical doping programs, has bought hidden-motor bikes in the past three years, but CBS said Ferrari told them he tested one but never bought one from Varjas.