Infrared Cameras in Biking Competitions

After years of trying to catch dopers in cycling competitions, a new method of cheating has risen. “Mechanical doping” involves hiding a piece of technology, like a motor, on the bike, usually in either the frame or in the seat. In order to combat this form of cheating during the prestigious Tour de France, which began July 2nd and runs until the 24th, infrared cameras are being utilized. These devices, taken from the French Atomic Energy Commission, can detect the heat that motors give off, making it appear reddish or yellow depending on the temperatures levels. This works by letting viewers see further into the visible light range. While normal cameras usually only have a range of around 400-700 nanometers, infrared cameras can see much further into the spectrum.

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the governing body for professional cyclists, has stated that it will perform somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 tests for the event. The cameras will be placed on the side of the road or on a motorcycle to ensure accurate measurements. In addition, the UCI will put institute tests that they call “unpredictable,” like manual bike checks and magnetic scans, to make sure that no rider is using any sort of cheating method.

Those who get caught are not treated lightly. A few months ago, at another championship, one star was found to have a motor in her seat tube. For this, she was given a six-year ban, had all of her titles taken away, and was given a $20,000+ fine. Seven cheaters in Italy were caught with motors utilizing infrared cameras and punished as well.

While some have their doubts about the effectiveness of the cameras, officials say they make finding a bike with a motor or other equipment is quite easy. Infrared cameras will continue to be used as the season progresses and beyond.

Konica Minolta Sensing offers a variety of products that are capable of measuring light. The CAS 140CT Spectrophotometer is accurate, simple to use, and performs a wide variety of tasks, like measuring infrared up to 2,100 nanometers.

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