HESPERANGE, Luxembourg -- French cycling team chief Alain Deloeil called Thursday for checks at this year's Tour de France to ensure that racers are not cheating by using motors hidden in their bike frames.
Recent speculation has focused on Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara, who denied this week he won Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders earlier this year with the help of an electric bike.
Deloeil, sports director of the Cofidis team, said checks should be carried out on the Tour to prevent "mechanical doping."
But former top rider Johan Museeuw says the whole idea of racers using hidden motors was not plausible, even though the technology exists.
Speaking at the start of the Tour of Luxembourg's first stage, Deloeil urged the International Cycling Union (UCI) to develop a technology to detect motors in frames.
"I hope they will make sure that no rider will use them on this year's Tour de France," he said. "If it's true, this is mechanical doping. Cycling is about men riding their bikes, with their physical strength. If you add a motor, we'll soon be riding the 24 Hours of Le Mans Moto."
A video posted on different websites appears to show Cancellara pushing a button on the handlebars of his bike during both races.
Museeuw, a past winner of the Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders races, doubted that bike manufacturers would have developed such a device for racers but said he could see why Cancellara's behavior might have seemed suspicious.
"The system is available," Museeuw said. "I saw it at a bicycle showroom at Las Vegas last year.
"I don't know if Cancellara used it, but when you see the video on the Internet, you can see that Cancellara makes a strange move twice. He also changed his bike twice. So even if I don't believe he cheated, it can be suspicious," he said.
Museeuw also believes such a system would soon become common knowledge if it was being used by professional riders.
"It would be impossible to keep the secret," Museeuw said. "And I also think that it would be too risky for the bike manufacturers. It would be too dangerous for a brand like Specialized [Cancellara's Saxo Team supplier] and for a rider like Cancellara."
Cancellara has dismissed the rumors about him as nonsense.
"It's so crazy that I haven't anything to say," he told Swiss media earlier this week. "I don't feel like spending much time on such a stupid story."
The Saxo Bank team stood by its rider and said in a statement: "There was not and never has been a motor in any Team Saxo Bank rider's bike."
"We are confident that the majority of those people who have come across this video see it for exactly what it is, a creative, amateur artist's attempt to express a purely hypothetical idea that has no basis of fact or truth. It is a work of fiction, disguised as documentary."
Asked about the matter, seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong said he was "sick of answering" the question, while his team sports director Johan Bruyneel told reporters the story was "typical from our sport."
"I don't give any credibility to this thing," Bruyneel said. "Cancellara has been targeted but I don't think it's possible."
Given the speculation, the UCI has said it will examine the issue at a meeting next week with bike manufacturers.
Motors that can be attached to a bicycle have been commercially available for several years, but existing models require a battery carried visibly in a saddle bag.
The UCI said it had been in contact with former racer Davide Cassani, who claims to have tested a motorized bike that could help a rider cheat. The 49-year-old Cassani said he would be able to finish a classic or a Giro stage with this machine.