From the dawn of organized athletic competition, there have been those who cheat to try to get advantages in all kinds of sports. Baseball had its infamous steroids era, doping and match-fixing allegations dog world soccer, and the NFL have the New England Patriots’s Deflategate and a myriad of PED abuses. That being said, the news coming out of the Mexico City Marathon this week puts all those cheating scandals to shame.
It’s being reported that close to 6,000 runners have been disqualified for allegedly cheating during the race. In total, 5,806 people caught the automatic L after it was found that some cut the course in order to artificially better their times.
The marathon had 8 timing mats set up at about every 5 kilometers (roughly 3.1 miles) to track participants throughout the race. The timing mats recorded the runners that crossed through each of the checkpoints, which made it easy to spot any discrepancies. Of the 27,873 people that ran the marathon, over 10,000 (36% of runners) missed at least 1 mat, which can probably be attributed to innocent mistakes. However, 23.5% of runners missed multiple mats, and here is where things get fishy.
Surely, this would point to something being off, but when you look even deeper into the mats, a pattern emerges: only 4% of runners missed the final timing mat, but every other mat had at least 10% of runners missing it. This helps with the assumption that people were just cutting the course and missing the middle mats in the process. Whoops.
In a Facebook page created to bring awareness to the perceived marathon cheating, different cases of cheating were circulated, including edited photos were posted featuring runners allegedly chilling on the subway on their way to skipping parts of the course (the monkey faces are a nice touch, random Facebook administrator). It’s also being reported that some athletes were also used as “mule runners,” representing multiple registered marathon runners at once.
All in all, it appears that the participants successfully comprised the integrity of the 9th-ranked marathon in the world with their actions. Serving as a qualifier for other marathons, there’s no question that this race was targeted by those looking for an easy way into the more prestigious races, and legitimate runners might pay the price by losing their qualification slots.