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Officials use a thermal camera to detect mechanical doping during the 162,5 km seventh stage of the 103rd edition of the Tour de France cycling race on July 8, 2016 between L'Isle-Jourdain and Lac de Payolle. AFP Photo

LAC DE PAYOLLE: A thermal camera was used for the first time without warning at the Tour de France on Friday in a bid to detect hidden motors in riders’ bikes.

Controls had been carried out previously on every Tour stage but this was the first time one was unannounced.

“The control came up totally negative,” French secretary of state for sports Thierry Braillard told AFP.

“There will be others, without knowing when or where.”

The camera was used on the Col d’Aspin climb, the first major mountain crested by the riders in this year’s race.

Braillard had announced alongside world cycling bosses the UCI before the Tour started that the camera would be used to stamp down on a practice known as technological fraud or technological doping.

No motors have yet been detected at the Tour, and in fact, only one cyclist has been caught using one: teenage Belgian cyclo-cross starlet Femke Van den Driessche. She has since been banned for six years.

“We want to remove any climate of suspicion and fight against any eventual technological fraud,” added Braillard.

“It’s really been the first unannounced control using a thermal camera. No-one saw it, no-one knew.”

The camera, developed by the French Atomic Energy Commission and used alongside magnetic resonance testing, was tried out during the recent French Championships before being brought to the Tour. --AFP

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