Secret Motors in the Pro Cycling Peloton Since ’98? 60 Minutes Investigates

Interview with the engineer who designed secret bicycle motors says mechanical doping has been around since 1998

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60 minutes cycling motors in bikes mechanical doping tv special

If you’re hungry for goulash and stories on mechanical doping, 60 Minutes has your bases covered this Sunday. They go all the way to Budapest to talk with the Hungarian designer of secret bike motors who claims these motors have been used in the pro peloton since 1998.

Istvan Varjas speaks to Whitaker for a 60 MINUTES investigation into mechanical cheating, because, let’s face it, blood doping is gross. Bike doping is way more interesting.

Three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond also lends his expertise and voice to the 60 MINUTES report, which will air Sunday, Jan. 29 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on CBS.


Varjas, a scientist and former cyclist, says he first designed a motor to fit inside a bike’s frame in 1998. According to Varjas, a friend found an anonymous buyer who offered Varjas nearly $2 million for it. Further, he says he took the money and agreed not to work on such motors, sell or speak of them, for 10 years. When asked whether he believes hidden motors like his have been used since then, he answers, “I think. Yes.”

Varjas claims it’s not his fault if pro cyclists ended up with his bike.  “If a grandfather came and buy a bike and after it’s go to…his grandson who is racing, it’s not my problem,” he says. According to Varjas he would sell a motor to a person who told him they were going to cheat with it: “If the money is big, why not?”

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60 MINUTES met Varjas in a Budapest bike shop where he demonstrated his motor designs and completed motorized bicycles that he sells to wealthy clients.  He showed 60 MINUTES how a secret switch can engage the hidden motors, or, in a more sophisticated model, they can be engaged when a racer’s heart rate peaks. He allowed Whitaker to test ride some of the bikes with hidden motors.

Watch the video.

The first time it was publicly suspected a motor was being used in pro cycling was in 2010 when Fabian Cancellara was accused after he raced at an unusually high speed–accusations he denied. There have been other suspicious incidents, and last year young World’s Cyclocross rider, Femke Van den Driessche, was caught with a secret motor on one of her alternate bikes.

Jean Pierre Verdy, former testing director of the French Anti-Doping Agency, says the sport has a problem. “It’s been the last 3 to 4 years when I was told about the use of the motors,” Verdy tells Whitaker.  “There’s a problem. By 2015, everyone was complaining and I said, ‘something’s got to be done.’”


LeMond, an outspoken advocate for drug testing, wants his former sport to do more testing for the motors, too. “This is curable. This is fixable.  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,” says LeMond.

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Catch the full 60 Minutes broadcast on CBS this Sunday, January 29 at 7:00-8:00 pm ET/PT. And get a sneak peak video at CBS News.


Watch the full 60 Minutes episode at the CBS website here, or check your local listings.

About Bek 301 Articles
SLO Cyclist's former chief editor and recovering road snob, Bek made sure everything ran smoothly around here. She was also the one who reminded us not to take ourselves too seriously--unless it involves black socks. Black socks are always serious.

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