Even virtual cycling has real cheating scandals

Even virtual cycling has real cheating scandals

As Defector reports, the online virtual cycling program Zwift has seen a boost in recent years thanks in part to cyclists staying home during lockdown. Rather than leave the house, you can swap the rear wheel of your bike for a trainer mount that provides variable resistance like an exercise bike, hook up a power meter that uploads your data to Zwift, and see your avatar ride around with other cyclists. (There’s even a mod to connect it to Grand Theft Auto 5.)

Zwift is an esport now, with the UCI Cycling Esports World Championship using the software as well as the Zwift Racing League. Just like real racing, it’s not immune to accusations of cheating. Zwift recently banned two riders from its league for cheating—both of them elite competitors in their home country’s bike tournaments, and both for the same method of cheating. 

Zwift logs the data from riders via power meters, and for competitions requires two sources of data. One of the two banned racers submitted power data that showed a nine percent increase over the course of the race, while the other submitted data with a 32 percent increase. In both cases, Zwift’s automated systems flagged them for being, well, pretty sus.

Editing a data log may be different from doping, but a competition is a competition even if it lacks the prestige and prize money of the Tour de France. Both riders were banned for six months.

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