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November 13, 2017

What One Marathon is Doing to Stop Race Cheaters

Road race cheating is something that’s probably happened since the dawn of the sport, but the topic appears to be as prevalent an issue as it’s ever been. Perhaps it’s due to the outing of infamous cheats like Kip Litton or Mike Rossi. Or it might be modern technology that allows sleuths like Marathon Investigation’s Derek Murphy to catch cheats.

Most races like the California International Marathon already have extensive results vetting processes, but they’re increasingly finding the need to do more.

“Over each of the last three years our Results Committee has spent over a month scouring our results, removing an average of 40-50 finishers — the majority of whom are not intentional cheaters — from the results before stamping them official in early January,” said Eli Asch, CIM’s race director. “Our intensive review includes looking at pace between split-points, reviewing missed split points, checking race photos and video, and several ‘state secret’ methods.”

Asch and his team determined this extensive process wasn’t enough, especially to uphold the integrity of CIM’s title as the number one Boston Marathon qualifier by percentage of any major American marathon. As a result, CIM is bringing on the aforementioned Marathon Investigator to bolster its results verification process.

And to show how serious CIM is about this stuff, Asch published a letter (you can read it below) sent to an individual caught posting on Craigslist attempting to find a bib mule to run a Boston qualifier at CIM.

“We published the letter for the deterrent factor. We’re intentionally not vocal about the outcome of our annual results scrub and because of that we felt that cheaters might not be aware of our efforts and still target our race,” Asch said. “We viewed this case as an opportunity to highlight our efforts so that cheaters would know that our race isn’t an easy target and instead look somewhere else — or better yet, other races will follow our lead, and soon cheaters won’t have any easy targets left.”

Marathon Investigator Derek Murphy recently joined Chris Chavez for a chat on the CITIUS MAG Podcast:

Hi [Redacted],

My name is Eli Asch, and I’m the Race Director of the California International Marathon. In conjunction with Marathon Investigation, our results integrity partner, we have determined that you sought out a bib mule to run a Boston Qualifier for you at the 2017 California International Marathon. 

Transferring your bib at all is a clear violation of our race rules, as stated on our Event Rules page (“The California International Marathon entry fees may not be transferred under any circumstances. Individuals involved in these illegal transactions will both be disqualified”) and in the waiver you signed with your registration (in which you acknowledged “that the entry fee paid is non-refundable and non-transferable”). Beyond being a clear violation of event rules, paying a bib mule to run a Boston Qualifier for you goes even several steps further — it compromises the integrity of our event and its results, is intentional and premeditated cheating, and goes against the very spirit of the marathon. It is unethical and wrong, and could result in robbing someone of a spot on the Boston Marathon starting line — a spot that they fairly earned.

In light of this, your entry for this year’s California International Marathon has been invalidated and you are banned from future editions of the California International Marathon. Additionally, the Sacramento Running Association will be sharing your information with Marathon Investigation, which maintains a flagged list of runners whose results deserve further scrutiny, as well as other running organizations including many major races in our region as well as the Boston Athletics Association, organizers of the Boston Marathon. Beyond that we will keep your personal information confidential (although we reserve the right to change that stance if your future actions necessitate it).

If you are willing to both fully cooperate with our investigation (which will include sharing with us the information of anyone who responded to your CraigsList post expressing interest in being your bib mule as well as any other information we may request) and not contest our above-stated findings, the Sacramento Running Association will consider reducing the term of your ban to three years, making you eligible to run SRA races again after the 2020 CIM.

[Redacted], as the #1 Boston Qualifier by percentage of any major American marathon, the California International Marathon takes the integrity of its results very seriously. We’re proud of the fact that so many of our runners clock PRs, Olympic Trials Qualifiers, and toe the starting line in Hopkinton every year. But that wouldn’t mean anything if we didn’t know that they earned it fairly. You attempted to subvert that, which is unacceptable — to us, but more importantly to every one of our runners whose results are earned honestly through sweat, sore muscles, and countless early morning miles run when it would just be easier to stay in bed.

It brings me no joy to send this email, because just the fact that I have to do so casts the slightest of shadows on every one of those runners’ hard-earned results — and, in fact, every marathoners’ results. But that is why I have to send it — and why the SRA has to issue this punishment. Because it’s our job to do everything we can within our power to remove that shadow, to assure that every time listed in our official results is honestly earned, to make sure that our marathoners can all hold their heads high knowing that their result is beyond reproach.

We hope that you realize what you did is wrong and won’t try to do it again. Then, next time you run a marathon, you’ll be able to look back at your results — whatever they may be — and, alongside your fellow marathoners, hold your head high, proud of what you’ve honestly accomplished and fairly earned.

Best regards,
Eli Asch
Race Director, California International Marathon

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