China is the world's most populous country at almost 1.4 billion people, representing 18.5% of the total global population. Once stereotyped as inscrutable, it appears that unscrupulous might be a more appropriate description for a small minority of marathon runners who have been caught cheating and who face stringent sanctions from the Chinese Athletic Association (CAA) for repeated misconduct.
Despite concerns regarding the poor air quality in cities like Beijing the sport of endurance running is booming in China, with 3 million people running 328 marathons races last year. There are at least 500 marathons planned for this year, so competitor numbers could rise to a staggering 4 million and CAA plans to hold 800 marathons by 2020, with more than 10 million participants.
Sadly, the death of a man running a half marathon in Xiamen in December 2016 while apparently wearing a woman competitor's number has highlighted the problem of runners using various techniques to cheat as the exponential growth in participation continues. An investigation led to the disqualification of 30 of the 18,000 competitors in the Xiamen race.
Methods apparently used to boost results include simple impersonation by using another competitor's number; carrying more than one chip-enabled number; covering part of the route on public transport; swapping numbers mid-race with another and the more obvious taking short cuts or simply joining the race at a later stage.
The authorities acted swiftly and have warned runners not to cheat with an announcement that transgressors will be banned from that event for life for a first offence and banned from all Chinese Athletic Association approved races for life for any subsequent offence.
"The marathon is becoming a fast-developing sports activity in China but we have noticed some disciplinary issues," said Wang Dawei, deputy director, National Sports Bureau. “Some runners fake their identities in marathon races for prize money or for other purposes.”
Unfortunately, such dishonesty in marathon running is not confined to China but runABC applauds the firm action being taken to attempt to eradicate cheating.