French Travel Agency Used ‘Bib Mules’ In Boston Qualifying Scheme

The Same Agency That Was Involved In Results Falsifications in 2014 Used Bib Mules To Qualify Runners For The 2017 Boston Marathon

Last year, I wrote about about a Boston Qualifying Scheme at the 2014 Mte St. Michel Marathon.

The former race director of the  Mt St Michel Marathon admitted that he had added the results of runners after the race. He says that he added the runners at the request of Planet Tours owner Momo Ferchichi. Mr. Ferchichi denied the allegations.

Shortly after this story broke, Planet Tours stopped advertising guaranteed Boston entries and removed the BAA logo from their site.

A recent visit to their site confirms that they are again advertising guaranteed entries into Boston. For 2018, they claim to have been given an allotment of 20 Boston bibs.

 

How are they obtaining these bibs?

 

2016 Quebec City Marathon

Acting on a tip initially, and then following up by looking at the database I put together of 2017 registrants, I focused on the Quebec City Marathon. Here is what I found.

 

Bib # Gender Age Time Time of Day Finish 1st split finish net time
1111 M 50-54 3:29:57 11:00:17 missed 3:29:57
1212 F 18-24 3:29:57 11:00:17 missed 3:29:57
1113 M 55-59 3:29:57 11:00:17 missed 3:29:57
464 M 60-64 3:30:01 11:00:17 1:43:33 3:30:00

 

The tip that I initially received was in regards to the runner #1212. The only split on the course is at mile 13.1.  Scrolling through the results on sportstats.ca, I noticed that 3 runners with identical times all missed the split. None of these 3 had any photos on the course. Runner #464 also finished at the exact same time. While there were no photos of the first 3 runners on the course, there is finish line video available. I purchased HD video for all the runners in the article. Here is a screen capture of the exact finishing time of these 4 runners.

 

The runner on the left ran the 1/2 marathon. It’s the other two that I am interested in. Also, remember that 4 bibs crossed the finish at the same time in the marathon. There are only two runners pictured.

 

Runner 464 may have run legitimately. He hit his 1/2 split, and has some photos on the course. I have confirmed his identity. He has run Boston in the past (wearing devil horns). He also had a Boston Qualifying Time for 2017 earned at The Scotiabank Ottawa marathon. That result appears to be legitimate.

The other runner looked out of place. Unless he was trying to set a Guinness Record for fastest marathon carrying an iPad, something was up. You can see the bottom portion of the bib. It appears to be 1111 or 1113 – both of those bibs show the same time as the two in the photo. Between these two runners, they were carrying bibs for 3 others.  2 of these runners are registered for Boston using these times. Another qualified – but not by enough to be accepted into Boston (whoops).

But this is where it gets real interesting.

 

 

Momo Ferchichi is pictured on the right of the above photo. Compare this photo to that of the iPad carrying bib mule in the Quebec finish line photos. They are one in the same.

Momo Ferchichi, the man that denied involvement when implicated by the Race Director himself at Mt. St Michel is on video carrying at least one other runner’s bib.

There were other instances of seemingly related bib muling.

Bib # Gender Age time Time of Day Finish 1st split finish net time
1114 F 50-54 3:43:23 11:13:34 1:43:22 3:43:23

The runner crossing the finish line in place of runner 1114 was wearing bib #903.  The only realistic explanation is that she is carrying bib # 1114.

Bib #s 1111 through 1114  were all carried across the finish line by people other than the registered runners.

 

Bib # Gender Age time Time of Day Finish 1st split finish net time
1096 M 55-59 3:53:52 11:24:36 1:54:08 3:53:53
1112 F 50-54 3:53:52 11:24:36 1:54:07 3:53:53

The last two runners to look at are in the table above. This time, there were two runners crossing the finish line at the same time. However they were wearing bib #s 905 and 906. The time for the entrant assigned bib # 1096 was not a Boston Qualifying time. That runner is registered for Boston using a charity bib.

In all cases, I confirmed that the actual runners had identical times as the runners’ whose bibs they carried.

There is no doubt that all of these cases are related to Planet Travel. The three potential bib mules wore bibs 903, 905 and 906. They are all from France (Bib # 904 was from France, but ran a slower time).

What I surmise is that Mumo had some of his clients carry bibs for those that paid for a Boston Marathon package. He also carried bibs himself.

The B.A.A. Takes Swift And Decisive Action

Shortly after I notified Boston of this scheme, all 6 of the runners with BQ times were removed from the list of registered runners. The only runner remaining is the runner with the charity bib. They even removed the entry of runner #464 who appears to have legitimate qualifying times, but finished the race side by side with Mr. Ferchichi. Update: From the B.A.A. “He, and some others have had their entry provisionally suspended pending a review of data and other information” Looking at the information, I don’t believe that #464 was involved in carrying bibs. He hit the 1/2 split, the muled bibs did not.

I will be pulling an updated list of registrations to see if others were disqualified from different races that I may not yet be aware of. Update: It does not appear that others have been removed from the registration list at this point.

With Mt St Michel, I caught it after the fact. The runners already ran Boston. There was no real punishment that Boston could hand down. This time it is different. The punishment was harsh. For the runners that were not in Quebec, they likely had no idea of this scam. They purchased what they thought were legitimately obtained bibs.

The action that the B.A.A. took was correct. They could not knowingly allow runners to use those bibs that were not obtained legitimately. It does not matter whether the runners were aware of how their bibs were obtained or not.

I hope that this action will finally put a stop to this activity. There are now a number of customers that were planning to run The Boston Marathon next month that now do not have bibs. Mr. Ferchichi will have to answer to them. He will have to pay them back. His reputation will take a hit. Hopefully the local media picks up on this and holds him accountable for his business practices.

In Conclusion

I also want to make it clear that I am not done looking into this. Planet Tours had a presence at many marathons during the 2017 Boston Qualifying period. I plan to dig into the results for all those races looking for a similar pattern of the results. Also, someone reading this may be aware of other instances. If you are aware, please email me at results@marathoninvestigation.com. Your tips will remain anonymous.

Update: Planet Tours sent approximately 15 runners to The 2016 Boston Marathon. I can’t yet say whether these runners qualified on their own or not. Only 1 of the 15 whas high on my priority list to review. I continue to dig through the other races they attended.

Special thanks to sportstats.ca for providing the data for analysis.

 

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Categories
Boston Marathon
30 Comments on this post.
  • grey
    23 March 2017 at 10:30 am

    fantastic work!

    And so thrilled the BAA is taking action based on your investigation. This is encouraging since your work is successful if the races take the appropriate swift action.

    I’m hoping for lifetime bans for any runner proven to have cheated, lied and or both to gain entry. Running Boston is a honor and privilege (I will be running my first in 25 days) and hope they are thoroughly vigilant from here on.

  • Dave
    23 March 2017 at 11:49 am

    This is fantastic! I would love to see BAA offer spots to those that have been denied entry in the past by the time cutoffs. There have been way too many runners that put in the time and effort to qualify only to be denied a spot by these cheaters.

  • ivo biancucci
    23 March 2017 at 12:27 pm

    Great work!!

  • DM
    23 March 2017 at 1:08 pm

    Very strong work. Wow. I bet your hit the tip of the iceberg. Looking forward to follow up story of systematic bib muling at many other venues. Could theoretically be a source of some nice extra income selling boston qualifier numbers using several different qualifying races. Don’t forget that the NYC Marathon also is a qualifier race to a good extent (it is sold out and requires a decent time to get a guaranteed entry) though never talked about in that regard. There could be “muling” going on to get in there too.

  • S
    23 March 2017 at 1:44 pm

    Any word on how much these people paid for the entry?

  • McPumpkin
    23 March 2017 at 2:09 pm

    There are two types of people that I really have a problem with –
    1- Those who are intolerant of other races or nationalities and
    2 – The French. Man I can’t stand the French.

    Vive La Freedom Fries!

    • liz
      23 March 2017 at 2:18 pm

      McPumpkin, don’t put all the French in the same bucket ! We are not all like this guy.

      • Nik
        23 March 2017 at 6:02 pm

        I think McPumpkin quoted a joke from one of the “Austin Powers” movies. Dr. Evil says something similar about the Dutch, and it’s intended to be a joke.

      • jason
        3 April 2017 at 5:38 am

        correction, he changed a quote from AP. The original made refernce to the Dutch 🙂

    • Puto
      8 April 2017 at 9:21 pm

      McPumpkin wrote:
      23 March 2017 at 2:09 pm

      There are two types of people that I really have a problem with –
      1- Those who are intolerant of other races or nationalities and
      2 – The French. Man I can’t stand the French.

      Vive La Freedom Fries!

      Small hands, smell like cabbage.

  • charlotte
    23 March 2017 at 2:29 pm

    Awesome job busting him. I just noticed that he removed the Boston Marathon from his proposed trips. I am French and I have a lot of friends that are runners there. I am sharing your post! Thank you for what you do!

  • Julien
    23 March 2017 at 3:07 pm

    This is great work. But please remove the scroll hijacking script you’re using. It’s not helping.

    • derek murphy
      23 March 2017 at 6:37 pm

      I did not add any script to the base template. I am not experiencing any issues with scrolling.

  • Mary
    23 March 2017 at 4:04 pm

    Checked out more half marathon results 2016 w65-69. First place according to photos. Did not run that time maybe even second according to pictures. But most definitely threeplace looks about thirty years old. Strange. Could be wrong but will start monitoring my age group results.

  • Ray
    23 March 2017 at 4:46 pm

    I think he should’ve been DQed for running with the iPad alone.

  • foursixtyfour
    23 March 2017 at 5:55 pm

    So #464 is removed and possibly guilty of finishing next to someone! Please dig deeper into that. If you’re getting legit people removed, and he looks legit from Athlinks, you squander any goodwill this website has in the running community.

    • derek murphy
      23 March 2017 at 6:26 pm

      I didn’t have him removed. First, I don’t have any pull over the BAA. Second, in my email to them, I said that I felt he legitimately ran the race. My guess is that Boston connected the two somehow.

  • Chris
    24 March 2017 at 12:08 am

    Great Job! Thank you.

  • Jacquelyn
    24 March 2017 at 7:22 am

    I’m literally speechless… I supppse I underestimate the niche that road running holds right now, but it’s bizarre. As a road runner since 2001 when I was 19, I can’t believe how the sport has evolved into this behemoth where people cheat and steal to run a race. I love racing but it’s painful! Paying 100 to run a marathon is bad enough, paying many times that to brag you did a race that you advertebtly or inadvertently cheated to get into. Vomit

    Keep up the good, albeit depressing-commentary-on-our-society by these people, work

  • EGhost57
    24 March 2017 at 12:01 pm

    With you on the case it’d be easier just to dope.

  • Schwartz
    24 March 2017 at 4:32 pm

    Frankly speaking, who cares …?
    What if it is the dream of someone who doesn’t have the level tu run Boston ?
    There are more important things in life my friend.
    Sincerely
    Eric Schwartz

    • Brad
      24 March 2017 at 6:13 pm

      A blatant contradiction in the span of two sentences. Impressive. To rephrase Schwartz: “Maybe it’s someone’s life dream to run Boston and, if it is, then it’s ok to cheat to get into Boston because running Boston is not that big of a deal.”

      • TL
        25 March 2017 at 5:01 pm

        Amen to that, Brad. And to answer the question, if it’s the dream of someone who doesn’t have the level *to qualify for Boston* then they can run via the charity program. I fail to see how cheating ones way into Boston – as if it’s some sort of entitlement – is justifiable on any level. And not a big deal Eric? Try asking a person who put in the work, ran a qualifying time, but was closed out by someone who cheated to get in.

  • slosada
    24 March 2017 at 6:18 pm

    Derek,

    I think you should do an effort to reinstate 464.
    I verified all pictures and this guy ran alone except for one lady early in the race and Mr. Ferchichi in the final stretch. This crock caught 464 from behind (he appears in one of the pictures trailing by 100ft)

    • derek murphy
      24 March 2017 at 6:33 pm

      I’ve already emailed the BAA regarding him. I looked at everything I could find. I’ve found no prior connection between the two. The comment I posted from the BAA was their response to my email to them regarding this runner.

  • Sachin
    24 March 2017 at 11:17 pm
  • Greg Canon
    25 March 2017 at 12:02 pm

    YOU ARE F********ING AWESOME! KEEP THIS UP! YOU ARE DOING AN INCREDIBLE SERVICE TO THE RUNNING COMMUNITY! THANK YOU!

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    Aston Villa Tröja

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  • Sasser
    27 March 2017 at 9:19 am

    I just checked the QC Marathon’s results page. It appears #464’s result has been reinstated. Thank goodness.

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