Top-level races could be fixed and riders being told how to ride through race radios, according to David Lappartient, the newly-elected president of the UCI.
Reigniting the debate over the use of race radios in professional radios, Lappartient said that the technology meant that gamblers could possibly hack into the communications between a rider and team car, telling the rider how to ride and where they should finish, depending on the bets they had placed.
“[Race radios] make cycling very sensitive to online betting,” Lappartient told Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws.
“You can communicate directly with the rider in the race. Officially, the connection goes from a team car to a rider, but technologically, there is nothing that prevents me or you from calling the wearer of the yellow jersey during a stage of the Tour.”
The Frenchman, who replaced Brian Cookson as the president of the UCI in September, went on to say that he did not want to see cycling undermined by gambling, as he perceived to be the case in other sports, and that although he did not believe radios were being used to fix races at the moment, the sport had to be aware that it could be a possibility in the future.
“Sports betting is like an iceberg,” he continued. “Ninety per cent of the bets are illegal and happen below the waterline. That’s how it is in football, tennis and handball.
“I do not want to get to a day when cycling, once we have dealt with doping, and the fight against mechanical fraud has been successfully carried out, is undermined by corruption and gambling scandals.”
Lappartient said that he intended to ban race radios from the 2018 World Championships in Innsbruck, taking the sport’s governing body in a similar direction to what it took in 2011, when then president Pat McQuaid brought in a rule banning race radios from all top-level races.
Since then, the ban has been removed from HC and .1 races, meaning that race radios are allowed in the vast majority of televised UCI races.