This week the UCI announced the creation of a hotline for riders to “discuss issues or concerns related to doping.” The hotline is one of the bold initiatives set forth by embattled UCI president Patrick McQuaid.
While not part of the initial announcement, the UCI is also launching a new iphone app called “Idoped.” The application will allow those with guilty consciences who own an iphone 4S or 5 to admit to using ban substances or alert the UCI to doping abuses by others.
“We wanted something more interactive, with a wow factor,” said Jens Sringe, a interaction designer engaged by the UCI to develop the app. “The trouble with confessions is that they’re painful. We tried to create an element of fun that encourages honesty.”
The Idoped app allows riders to make an individual profile and then ride through an virtual world of needles and blood bags and banned substances. At the end the rider accumulates a “banned practice” score. The higher the score, the more the player is encouraged to “end omertà.” A wifi or 4G connection permits riders to send an admission directly to UCI headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland.
“We game tested the app with several top riders and the results were revealing to say the least,” said Sringe. “Even riders who most observers would guess were clean finished the game with complete confessions.”
Former US Postal rider Frankie Andreu was skeptical of the UCI hotline but gave an optimistic appraisal of the UCI Idoped app. “This could be a winner. I still play Angry Birds and I’m addicted to Words With Friends. So if I could play Idoped and have that admission be a fun thing, then that’s the way to go,” said Andreu.
Critics have accused the UCI of an inability to address the doping problem or show any leadership, but the new doping admission app may change perceptions. “It’s a good game, a good platform for the guilty to come forward,” said UCI president McQuaid. “We needed a bold stroke and I think this is it. Even Kimmage likes it and he hates most everything I do.”
The reaction from at least one WorldTour team has already been positive. “We’ve got riders playing the beta version,” said team boss David Brailsford. “I try to get them to “save” their admissions, but right now they like to erase them. It’s progress.”
Jonathan Vaughters of Garmin-Sharp was more skeptical about the Idoped app. “At the end of the day, my guys have already confessed so there’s not really a need for the game. I think there have been too many games going on for years.”
While still in the first phase of development, the Idoped app has plenty of exciting and engaging game features. Depending on game mode, players can chose things activities like “Write my admission,” “Rat a friend” and “Wipe out a sponsor.”
“This is a serious game. We pull in the riders with cutting edge interactive game play but underlying the action is the admission,” said Sringe. “Players are made to feel empowered, that the truth is cool no matter what the consequences.”
The UCI plans to sell the Idoped app on the Apple iTunes website for 99 cents starting January 1st.