I was timing a cross-country meet the other day and was witness to a Rosie. You may remember Rosie Ruiz in the 1980 Boston marathon when it was determined that she actually cut the course. In this particular case, there was middle school girl who jumped in the race a few hundred yards from the finish and placed in the top 25. The reason I caught it was because she was dumb enough to get close to our finish line three minutes before the first girl. She then I assume proceeded to an area where she could get away with cheating. Unfortunately, I didn't actually see her do it so I couldn't do much about it, but there was no doubt in my mind that she cheated. Telling the coach didn't do any good as he was more concerned about the win, than the possible cheating. It was really disappointing.
I got to thinking about the number of times I see cheating on a regular basis from the timing tent. It comes in all kinds of ways. Sometimes it is people cutting the course, but many times it is people taking advantage of the way chip timing works. For example, on a chip start race, they will intentionally start beyond the line so we don't capture their start time. They then come up to us after the race and show us their watch time. It's entirely possible that their chip didn't read at the start (it's more common than most realize with all timing systems), but I also know of situations where it was intentional.
There are other instances such as wearing someone else's bib so they can get a better time. I've even seen people swap bibs intentionally and only bring it up when they discover that they could have won. This is not to say that all of those times are intentional cheating, but we see enough evidence of intent. Switching divisions in races and not telling anyone is another form of cheating. I've seen people for example drop from a 10K into a 5K and then accept a medal for their "10K" win. Sometimes those things are easy to detect but often they are not. How do you know for example, that a 43 minutes 10K is valid? Slow 5K or decent 10K?
The question that I always have to ask is why? Is it for the cheap $2 medal or for the bragging rights. How much bragging can people really accomplish if their win was in error?
I'm thankful that most people are honest and decent at athletic events. People really strive to work hard and earn their accomplishments. It really degrades the sport though when people take advantage of it. Unfortunately, they are slick about it and rarely get caught. We should all do our part to call them out though when we see it.
Let's all do what we can to keep our sport clean. See you at the race!