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 Cheaters In Running Shoes
Submitted by Rickshaw :: Sun Dec 12, 2004 1:54 pm
With all the recent attention on drug doping athletes, it's easy to forget about the more mundane kinds of cheating that occur in the sport. While race route shortcuts and other kinds of blatant cheating are rare among the leaders, they do still occur among those back in the pack. Overworked race directors may not have time to investigate every allegation of cheating, further exacerbating the problem. In a sport that still relies primarily on the honor system, cheating runners may be more common than you think.

Running's best-known cheater is undoubtedly Rosie Ruiz. At the 1980 Boston Marathon, the totally unknown Ruiz emerged as if from nowhere in the final miles to win the women's race. A now infamous photograph shows Ruiz standing atop the winner's podium with men's champion Alberto Salazar. Oddly, Ruiz did not appear in any of the photographs of the race leaders along the course. Eventually a few people came forward to say they had seen her jump into the race during its final half-mile and then sprint to the finish line. Later investigation showed that she had also cheated in the New York marathon by riding the subway along part of the course.

More recently, 1991 Brussels Marathon winner Abbes Tehami was disqualified after it was revealed his coach had started the race for him, and he had only finished it. And just last month, the master's division winner at the Richmond Marathon was disqualified for cheating. Tipped off by another runner suspicious of his 2:45:12 finish time, the athlete coordinator discovered that James Rhyne's half marathon split was 1:59 and he did not record a 20-mile split time.

Cheaters among mid-pack runners generally fail to make the headlines. One exception is the case of a middle aged Connecticut woman whose serial cheating was exposed thanks to an extensive online research project in the Runner's World Online discussion forums and other online runner hang-outs. Investigation showed that she had run only the last mile of a half dozen Northeast US marathons in 2002, often finishing near the leaders. She was eventually disqualified from most of the events, but she is still listed as an age group winner on the Hartford Marathon's web site for 2002.

More common are those who take only minor shortcuts, so as to avoid drawing too much suspicion. During a recent Pittsburgh marathon, runners complained about cheaters who jumped across the median before the turn-around point on an out-and-back stretch of the course. Sometimes runners give in to the temptation to cut across lawns and parking lots to shave a few dozen yards here and there. Most races take no action against these types of cheaters.

The increasing popularity and expense of road racing has also resulted in more bib-swap cheating. Popular races may reach their registration limits well before race day, creating a demand for gray-market race number bibs sold by those registrants who must drop out due to injury or who see an opportunity to make a quick profit. While many may view this activity as harmless, it can create an unfair playing field for those vying for top age group spots. For example, the winner of the women's 60-65 age group at the 2002 Chicago marathon was actually a 37 year old man using his mother's race number bib.

What motivates runners to cheat in a sport that's primarily a competition against oneself is an interesting question. For some, the lure of a Boston qualifying time or an age group award is enough to compromise their principles. For others, cheating may be an attempt to win respect from peers, or may be completely inadvertent. Whatever the reasons, though, it's unfortunate when cheaters tarnish the experiences of honest runners and drive them from the sport.

Runworks 2005 5M Racer
Rochester, NY
Joined: 28 Nov 2004
Posts: 262

Re: Cheaters In Running Shoes Posted: Fri Dec 17, 2004 7:12 am 

This one is beyond my comprehension. For the 99% of us who really just out there racing against ourselves and trying to set new PR's, what would be the point of cheating? "I set a new PR in the 10k by turning around 200 yards before the correct turn-around point. Next time I'll get an even faster PR by lopping twice as much off the course!" Where's the logic in that?! Then again, there are some pretty strange people in the world, as evidenced by the trolls who occasionally appear on the RW forums. I guess for some the ability to brag about false accomplishments outweighs the drive for achieving real accomplishments.

Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Re: Cheaters In Running Shoes Posted: Fri Dec 17, 2004 10:06 am 

I guess most of the cheaters are angling for awards of some kind. Maybe an age group award or other minor prize, or admission into a race like Boston that requires a particular qualifying time. But for some, I suspect the excitement of the race and the simple desire to finish ahead of other people leads them to do stupid things.


Joined: 07 Dec 2004
Posts: 8

Track has this one figured out. Posted: Fri Dec 17, 2004 5:36 pm 

"If there is a false start, you will hear a second shot"

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