Even virtual cycling has real cheating scandals

A cyclist competes in a virtual Zwift race online
(Image credit: Zwift Inc.)

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.

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and Playboy.com, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.