WTF?! The pandemic forced many elements of our lives into the digital realm, including, in some cases, sports. Even competitive cycling has transferred online, but that doesn’t mean cheating has disappeared—it just comes in different forms.
As reported by Defector, Zwift is an online platform that allows cyclists or runners who are stuck indoors to compete against others. You don’t need to buy a special static bike from the company to take part; a standard bicycle works. Users just replace the rear wheel with a ‘smart trainer’ that can alter resistance based on the virtual road, just like in real life. The devices also measure power data, which gets uploaded to Zwift.
Online cycling has joined other esports in offering cash to the winners. While it’s certainly nowhere near the millions on offer from the likes of Dota 2 and Fortnite, the first-ever championship held on Zwift came with a €8,000 (~$9,500) first prize. And where’s there’s cash, there’s often the incentive to cheat.
Following the start of its second racing league season last month, Zwift has announced six-month bans against two of its top riders.
Participants must submit two sources of data when taking part in competitive races. In the case of those banned, the data didn’t match up. One racer’s power increased by nine percent throughout the event, while the other competitor saw a 32 percent increase.
The racer with the larger increase confessed to editing the power data before submitting it to Zwift after initially denying the accusation. The banned rider with the nine percent increase says the discrepancy results from a software issue that forced their team to upload the data through a non-standard platform.
This isn’t the first case of competitors using thoroughly modern means to cheat in a virtual race. German Formula E Audi driver Daniel Abt was disqualified from an esports race last year after getting a professional gamer to compete as him.