Internet Watchdogs on High Alert for Boston Marathon Cheaters

Runner's World credits current scrutiny toward how people qualify for the Boston Marathon to Mike Rossi.

Remember the name Mike Rossi? That’s the name of the Montgomery County dad who became the topic of some very heated Internet discussion last year when runners looked into his past race times, available online, and accused him of cheating in the 2014 Lehigh Valley Health Network Via Marathon, the race that qualified him to run the Boston Marathon.

The runners — who were alerted of Mike Rossi’s existence when the story of him being scolded by the principal of his children’s school after taking them out of classes for a few days to watch him run the Boston Marathon went viral — argued that Rossi’s qualifying time for the Boston Marathon was suspiciously faster than his previous race times, and that combined with fact that there were no photographs of Rossi running the race that qualified him for the Boston Marathon pointed to cheating. Rossi vehemently denied the allegations, and the Via Marathon reviewed the evidence against Rossi, concluding that there was “not conclusive evidence that his time in the 2014 LVHN Via Marathon is inaccurate.” But nearly a year later, Runner’s World points out that the whole Boston Marathon Dad incident is still very much on people’s minds.

A piece published last Wednesday, titled “Dozens Suspected of Cheating to Enter Boston Marathon,” — the race is underway as I type this — talks about the very interesting culture of Internet investigations into race cheating, specifically cheating to get into the Boston Marathon, saying, “The current scrutiny toward how people qualify for the Boston Marathon is largely thanks to one man: Mike Rossi.”

As the piece points out, Rossi isn’t the only runner suspected of cheating to get into last year’s race, but he is the reason we know about all the others. Derek Murphy, a business analyst in Cincinnati, started a fascinating blog all about race cheating after getting into the Rossi case, which runners chatted about extensively on the website (Warning: Clicking through will result in a day solely spent reading Internet comments.) He’s since developed an algorithm to find people who cheated to get into the Boston Marathon and, with a few friends, launched a full-blown investigation in his free time, finding 47 cases of “questionable qualifiers” from last year’s race. And he plans to launch another investigation after this year’s race ends.

Murphy told Runner’s World that his hope is that knowing that someone actually cares enough — and has the time — to find suspected cheaters will act as a deterrent for runners when it comes to to cheating in order to qualify for races. You know, if the comments about Mike Rossi weren’t enough of a deterrent. (Hell hath no fury like an angry commenter on a race cheating thread.) I guess we’ll have to wait and see if there are fewer than 47 questionable qualifiers this time around. Stay tuned.

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