No “Conclusive Evidence” Boston Marathon Dad Mike Rossi Cheated in Qualifier

The end of the saga? Perhaps.

Mike Rossi at the Boston Marathon

Mike Rossi at the Boston Marathon

It has been a month since allegations surfaced that Montgomery County’s Mike Rossi cheated in the 2014 Lehigh Valley Health Network Via Marathon, the race that qualified him to run the Boston Marathon this year. Rossi has vehemently denied the accusations. And now the organization that produced the qualifying race has issued a statement about Rossi’s controversial time.

Here’s what Via spokesperson Lisa Walkiewicz had to say in reference to the allegations against Rossi:

After a thorough review of the available evidence in relation to Mike Rossi’s participation in the 2014 Lehigh Valley Health Network Via Marathon, the Marathon committee concluded that while there is data from Rossi’s participation in other racing events indicating that Rossi’s time may not be accurate, there is not conclusive evidence that his time in the 2014 LVHN Via Marathon is inaccurate.

The LVHN Via Marathon has not received any reports from the more 2,500 race participants, thousands of spectators, and more than 600 volunteers, course marshals, security personnel, medical personnel or race officials on the course of any wrong doing by any runner. Therefore the LVHN Via Marathon Committee concluded that Rossi will not be disqualified unless additional conclusive information arises in the future.

Walkiewicz went on to say that Via will be implementing new anti-cheating measures going forward, including the use of at least six timing mats and video surveillance at several locations along the course. There was no video surveillance in the 2014 race, and the only timing mats were at the start and finish lines.

Rossi became the focus of many skeptics in the running community after a story went viral in April about a scolding letter he received from the principal of his children’s school regarding his decision to take them out of classes for three days so that they could watch him run the Boston Marathon.

Critics of Rossi pointed to his records from other races, which, they claimed, seemed to suggest that his running time in the qualifying race was suspect. Some also found it suspicious that there were no photographic records of Rossi running the race, other than at the finish line, while many other runners were photographed at various stages of the race by the event photographers hired to do so. There were thousands of comments about the controversy on forums hosted by Runners World and, the discussion on the latter site reaching to over 200 pages.

But Rossi always maintained that he did nothing wrong, telling Philadelphia magazine back on May 4th that the allegations were “one hundred percent false.” And as far as Rossi is concerned, Via’s carefully worded statement is completely exonerative.

“I am satisfied that the Lehigh Valley Health Network Via Marathon conducted an objective evaluation of all the evidence,” says Rossi today. “I fully cooperated with the investigation from the beginning and answered all of their questions. As far as my family and I are concerned, this matter is now resolved.”

Naturally, skeptics remain, and the matter isn’t resolved as far as some of them are concerned.

On Monday morning, Via announced its findings on the organization’s Facebook page, and Rossi detractors were quick to jump on it. Here’s what one had to say about Via’s investigation:

And it’s a gutless statement. This guy posts a result not supported by any previous efforts by him and he fails to appear in a single race photograph other than the finish line, despite that fact that EVERY single other runner appears in multiple pictures all along the course. Note what the statement DOESN’T say. There is no mention of any proof that Rossi actually ran. Just “nobody complained at the time”.

We asked Via’s Walkiewicz about some of the complaints regarding the investigation.

“We reviewed every piece of data available to us and searched extensively for additional data like police surveillance video and media coverage,” she says, adding that United States Track & Field — the national governing body for the sport — acted in an advisory capacity for the inquiry. “Our goal was to find conclusive evidence from which we could make a decision. In this process, we uncovered no evidence of wrongdoing on Mr. Rossi’s part … The investigation is concluded. In the future, should anyone supply us with conclusive evidence that shows Mr. Rossi’s time in the 2014 race is inaccurate, we will reopen the investigation.”

Meanwhile, a blog post on also attacked the investigation:

In our minds, the statement by the marathon organizers is logically flawed. Imagine if the police in this country weren’t allow[ed] to charge people with burglary simply because it wasn’t reported while it was happening – crime would be even more of a problem than it already is.

When one considers that it’s physiologically improbable to say the least (some would say impossible) that Mr. Rossi was even capable of running 3:11:45, given his personal bests at other distances which all equate to a marathon over 3:30, with the fact that he wasn’t seen in a single photo on the course, the burden of proof should have shifted to Mr. Rossi to provide some shred of evidence that he ran the race (GPS data, photos, statements from fellow competitors, spectators or family members, etc.) or was at least physically capable of something close to a 3:11:45 (training logs, GPS data, statements from training partners), particularly when one considers that his own contemporaneous statements contradicted his initial explanation that his other PRs were much slower simply because he was injured or not going all out in many of his shorter races.

The integrity of our beloved sport is at stake. We’ve spent much of the last few weeks researching and writing our own story on Mr. Rossi that lays out the evidence against Mr. Rossi. We were going to publish the story which was going to ask for the DQ today, but now will publish the story early next week as we don’t want it to get lost as a Friday afternoon news dump.. In our minds, the evidence is indeed conclusive that Mike Rossi – the viral Boston Marathon dad – is a marathon cheat and should have not been on starting line in Boston.

But Rossi remains steadfast in his denial, telling us that that he’s looking forward to getting back to running as soon as he recovers from an injury.

Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.