Marathon running is a sport that is seeing an incredible explosion of popularity in China, with the Chinese Athletics Association reporting (CAA) 1,072 marathons and road races have been held so far this year, up from 22 in 2011. While this explosion could help cultivate some world-class athletes, it also seems to be cultivating some world-class cheats.
A total of 258 runners have been penalised for cheating in the Shenzhen half-marathon. Organisers of the race found that 18 runners were running with fake bib numbers, with photographers even managing to snap pictures of two competitors wearing the same number.
Alongside those were three imposters and 237 others who were caught by a traffic camera taking a shortcut. Organisers said that runners were supposed to run to the end of a road, take a U-turn, then come all the way back. 237 runners decided against that and cut through some bushes, skipping two or three kilometres of the 21-kilometre race.
Thankfully the cheaters have been dealt swift retribution. The runners wearing fake bib numbers have been given a lifetime ban from the event, while the others are banned for two years.
Around 16,000 athletes run in the event, taking place in the fourth-largest city in the country. This means that an astonishing 1.5% have received bans for their actions. In the Beijing half-marathon last year, organisers used facial recognition software to combat the influx of cheaters, highlighting the growing issue in China.
The race organisers released a statement addressing the events: “we deeply regret the violations that occurred during the event. Marathon running is not simply exercise, it is a metaphor for life, and every runner is responsible for him or herself.”