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Amateur cyclist caught with motor in bike in France

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PARIS — An amateur rider was caught using a motor hidden on his bike at a small French race over the weekend, possibly the first case of mechanical doping in the country.

Acting on a tip from the French anti-doping agency on Sunday, local police arrested the rider, whose identity has not been revealed, after the race in southwestern France.

Local media said the 43-year-old man, whose impressive climbing abilities in a previous race had raised doubts, admitted to cheating.

“Unfortunately, the outcome of this operation confirms what we feared about the possible use of this type of fraud in the amateur world,” French cycling president Michel Callot said in a statement. “It is a real insult to our sport, and to all the competitors carrying out their activity in all honesty.”

First speculation of technological doping emerged in 2010. At the time, Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara was forced to deny he won Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders with the help of an electric bike after a video appeared to show him pushing a button on the handlebars during both races. Last year, a Belgian cyclist was caught using a motor on her bike at the cyclo-cross world championships and was banned for six years.

Bike checks have since been introduced and carried out by the cycling’s governing body at its events. The French federation said its testers at the French championships are equipped with thermal cameras, and that they also check equipment by disassembling bikes.

“This identified technological fraud case in Saint-Michel-de-Double is reinforcing the FFC in its belief this type of action should be developed locally,” said Callot, adding that other “reliable and efficient technical solutions” to catch fraudsters should be developed.

Callot also called on the French sports ministry and the International Cycling Union to devise “a major action plan” with an extra attention to amateur events.

Froome finishes 10th in Ruta del Sol, Wellens wins

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MADRID (AP) Chris Froome finished Spain’s Ruta del Sol race in 10th place behind winner Tim Wellens on Sunday.

The five-stage race in southern Spain was Froome’s first event since the four-time Tour de France winner was found to have failed a doping test at last year’s Spanish Vuelta.

Froome, who denies any wrongdoing, has been ordered to explain to the International Cycling Union why a urine sample he provided at the Spanish Vuelta in September showed a concentration of the asthma drug salbutamol at twice the permitted level.

Wellens, a Belgian rider for Lotto-Soudal, defended his lead over the final day’s time trial.

Wout Poels, of Froome’s Sky Team, was second at eight seconds behind.

Froome, who won the event in 2015, finished 1 minute, 57 seconds behind. He started the time trial on the final day in 14th after a puncture toward the end of Saturday’s fourth stage.

Froome returns to racing despite doping investigation

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MALAGA, Spain (AP) Four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome is returning to racing on Wednesday despite being under investigation by cycling’s world governing body for failing a doping test.

Froome is participating in the five-day Ruta del Sol in southern Spain, an event he won in 2015.

“I know I have done nothing wrong, that’s my starting point,” Froome said. “There is a process in place for me to be up to demonstrate that, and that’s obviously what I intend to do.”

Froome has been ordered to explain to the International Cycling Union why a urine sample he provided at the Spanish Vuelta in September showed a concentration of the asthma drug salbutamol at twice the permitted level.

He said he has received a lot of support from other riders so far, and that he is trying to solve the issue as fast as possible.

“I do believe that when all the facts are out there I think people will see it from my point of view,” Froome said.

If found guilty of doping, the British rider could lose his Vuelta title and be suspended for a long period.