Altitrainer Seized by Italian National Police in Investigation After Stage 10

An Altitrainer appears to be
a training device used in conjunction
with a stationary bike or treadmill.
Is this the device that was seized
by Italian police?
[ Photo: SMTEC, S.A. ].

Robbie McEwen of Davitamon-Lotto edged Fassa Bortolo rider Alessandro Petacchi in the Stage 10 finishing sprint into Rossato Veneto. Petacchi was set up perfectly for the sprint, but later said that he misjudged the sprint and started sprinting too early.

The big story of the last stage before the Dolomites, however, was the police investigation that took place Wednesday, where Italian national police reportedly sought and confiscated a device called an Altitrainer. Early Italian wire reports and the stage summary on Velonews indicate that it's a tent that simulates the composition of air at high altitude, although the information I found on the Internet leads me to believe an Altitrainer is better described as a training device used in conjunction with a stationary bike or a treadmill. Devices like an Altitrainer apparently are not considered illegal by either the International Cycling Union (UCI) or the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), but they are illegal in Italy.

The UCI issued a press release that questions the efficacy of the raid, beyond illustrating the difference between Italian law and professional cycling rules.

Although there were a couple of other items seized, the Altitrainer appears to have been the original target of the search. As such, this is the first time in my memory that a police investigation has been launched at a professional cycling race over what could be called a fitness gadget.

I'm aware of the fact that the Altitrainer that I'm showing in this article is not a hypobaric tent, and this conflicts with several accounts of the investigation. I suspect that the Altitrainer in question is not a tent because I doubt that there would be two different altitude training devices called "Altitrainer", and there is a fair amount of information (both on the Swiss manufacturer's website and in sports medicine journals) about the Altitrainer product shown in the photo.

I suspect that the confusion over the true nature of an Altitrainer stems from the fact that the Italian police have described but have not shown the Altitrainer to the media covering the Giro. Perhaps the reporter who first heard about the Altitrainer and its hypobaric properties assumed it was a tent and several subsequent reports repeated that information as if it were a fact.