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If You Cheat At This Game, You're Just Cheating Yourself

The world of cycling isn't immune to scandal, even if many people never hear about it. Cheating in video games also isn't unheard of, even if some instances have only amounted to accusations. Now, the world of video games and professional cycling have combined in a new cheating scandal that unites the two competitive fields in their struggle to battle performance enhancing hacks.

During the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, many sports have had to change the way they compete publicly. Cycling has made the move to increase the number of virtual competitions, with cyclists riding from stationary bikes in their home. Patrick Redford at Defector reported that cyclists are using Zwift, an online game and social media app hooked up to stationary bikes and used in conjunction with a trainer, to compete during the pandemic. While the indoor competitions might be safer, they have also inadvertently invited a new type of cheating unlike anything the cycling world has ever seen before.

Some cyclists have been tampering with their Zwift statistics, granting themselves performance boosts as if they're in a real-life Mario Kart. As reported by Defector, two cyclists received six month bans for altering their Zwift output scores. Professional cyclists Antonina Reznikov and Selma Trommer were both accused by Zwift of increasing their power during a race.

Both Reznikov and Trommer initially denied altering their output, but after both parties were pressed, they admitted the files had been changed. Trommer still denies any personal affiliation with the incident, but agrees that something happened to violates Zwift's rules.

The stakes for cheating in a virtual race are higher than they seem. Cycling Tips points out that cheating hurts both professional racers and hobbyists. Professionals depend on their online statistics to prove their worth to sponsors and win recognition from potential sponsors. As far as hobbyists go, "the whole point of Zwift is gamification and competition. If you can't count on a fair fight, that ruins the game, and nobody will want to play anymore." Zwift is attempting to combat dishonesty on the platform, but some forms of cheating, like providing incorrect weight information, are hard to detect, which can lead to inaccurate reporting.

Ultimately, cheating ruins the sport of cycling for everyone, pros and amateurs alike. Instead of turning professional cycling into a twisted version of Mario Kart, maybe cyclists should pick up an actual copy of the super popular racing game to get their adrenaline fix. Cheating in cycling helps no one, but launching a blue shell on whoever is in first place always feels good.