Scotland Bib Swapping Leads To Disqualification and Likely Ban


The D33 Ultra took place this past weekend in Scotland. Paddy finished in 3rd place in his division. But, not without controversy.

The above post was made on a Scottish running group page.

So, I signed in as Paddy with my good Irish Accent…Got my medal then the main organizer followed me into the marque and gave me this plaque and said well done Paddy, you came in 3rd Vet.

There are different levels of dishonesty related to bib swapping. Bib swapping without the organizer’s approval is never acceptable.

But, sometimes the entrants do not think of the possible implications regarding runner safety and race liability. I’ve written dozens of articles on bib swapping and banditing to try to bring attention to the possible consequences.

In this case, the unauthorized swapping led to an age group placement. Neil bumped a deserving runner off of the podium.

In this case, when given the opportunity to come clean, Neil accepted the ill-gotten plaque and smiled for the photo. He then thought it would be appropriate to post and brag about his behavior on a local Facebook Group with 10,000 members.

Once The Race Director was made aware, he responded:

I will see to it that you are both banned from any future Scottish Athletics events. You have stolen a place from the rightful winner and put runners safety at risk. You both are no longer welcome within the Scottish Ultra Scene. I will make sure the rightful winner receives his prize. You will be removed from the D33 results. #cheaters

As is unfortunately typical, some people are asking, “What’s The big deal”? This should be a textbook case, of inappropriate behavior.

I really don’t think Its a big deal at all. His buddy couldn’t make the race so he filled in for him. I don’t understand why anyone would be upset.

via: Facebook

I’ve probably written a dozen articles where runners unknowingly cheated others out of age group awards due to bib swapping. In this case, the runner knew the consequences of the bib swapping, and happily accepted the award.

There is also the issue of runner safety. Race organizers did not have Neil’s contact information in the event of an emergency. There have been plenty of instances of runners collapsing, or worse during races. It is only a matter of time before one of those runners is unregistered, and medical staff or race officials are unable to contact the family or unable to collect necessary medical information.

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  1. So assuming that the runner would have been in a different division (which wasnt clear from the above, but I’ll take your word on it), I don’t know if this runner’s mindset really rises to the level of what I personally would consider cheating, but Im not a RD, so what do I know. You acknowledge that there are “varying levels of dishonesty,” but if the consequence is a ban regardless of the level of dishonesty, that seems a bit harsh.

    I get that its a safety issue…kinda (they still have Paddy’s emergency info, right, and they seem to be friends, seems like it wouldnt be too hard to piece things together in an emergency). But this didnt strike me as a situation of a runner gaming the situation to get an advantage. I get the sense that the mens rea of bib swappers is not relevant to your analysis, but “You both are no longer welcome within the Scottish Ultra Scene/#cheaters” seems a bit harsh imho.

  2. Wrong as it is, bib swapping will continue as long as RD’s continue to make their races “No transfers and no roll overs.”

    If safety is truly the biggest concern, there should be a massive outcry against RDs who prohibit transfers (for a nominal administrative fee) and thus create an incentive to illegally swap. How hard is it to change the name/age (and emergency/medical info) on a registration after collecting a little more money? If RDs had runner safety as their top priority, they would make an effort to collect this information from runners. Instead, they take the easy way out and then act angry and surprised when runners continue to do what they have done for decades.

    • So it’s the RDs fault? Those are the rules. If you don’t like the rules, you be the RD and do what you want.

      • I’m not questioning the RD’s choice to do what they want.

        I just doubt that runner safety is the reason they choose not to do that. I think for small races, the RDs just don’t have the time; and for big races the corporations count on no-shows. Maybe it’s a legal thing required by their insurance. I just don’t buy the line that “medical staff or race officials are unable to contact the family or unable to collect necessary medical information” is really the priority.

        My race registrations rarely have medical information and at best have an emergency contact — I write that on my bib (and if I cheated I’d write it on my stolen bib) so it’s more immediately available should something happen to me.

        RDs set the rules, and running without registering is theft, plain and simple. Let’s call it what it is… stealing RD’s time or money.

    • Organisers have to minimise their exposure to faff. They also plan, with the police, ambulance etc for a predictable number of ‘no shows’. Why should everyone pay because people can’t organise in advance. Once again I have just missed registration for a really cool local race – an airport run. MY bad.
      Thanks for all your hard work RDS and I will continue to try to make you work as easy as possible.
      Cheers to Derek too!

    • The thing is though, many RDs are overworked, stressed and fed up with the admin that exists already, the hassle of updating lists is just something they do not need.

      • 100% agree and they have the right to prohibit changes!

        Just don’t tell me that it’s runner medical information that’s most important when they set that rule.

    • I have to say I agree that races should be more flexible on rollovers and transfers. Even small races are using online platforms for registration, and swaps should be low cost if managed there. Prohibiting swaps also reduces the incentive to register early. Perhaps races would fill faster at higher fees, and make planning easier, if people could register 4 months in advance with the assurance they could swap if injured or not trained and not have to eat the fee. I’m willing to follow the rules but I do think illegal bib swapping could be decreased with more flexibility. As I’ve written before, if someone sells a bib and the buyer runs deep in the pack, chances are no one is going to know or care. If the buyer runs an age group place or BQ, the holy hell of internet outrage will be visited upon them.

  3. Interesting case. I fully agree with the removal of the results and taking away the 3rd place to pass to the rightful winner, but I think this could have been handled a bit better by the RD. The harshly worded response (and #cheaters hashtag) is pretty strong for someone who obviously didn’t know they had done anything wrong (based on their post), and understandably created some sympathy for the bib swapper. This could have been a good opportunity to explain why swapping is so harmful, and use taking is award away as a positive learning experience. And as was mentioned earlier, being able to easily transfer a purchased race ticket (even for a fee) would go a long way to avoid issues like this.

    • Why do you think he didn’t know it was wrong? He pretended to be his friend (accent and all) because he knew otherwise he wouldn’t be allowed to race. This isn’t some 5K newbie. This was an ultra race. Someone with that much running experience can’t pretend at this point that they didn’t know what they did was wrong.

  4. On occasion when it came up, was offered a bib for a charity donation. I’ll never be/never was in ‘contention’ for anything. However I simply contacted the Race Director beforehand. I explained the situation. They were fine with it, told me too mention it at the Help desk on raceday (which I did) , and my name appeared in the results. I agree races should be flexible. Runners should be responsible, and also I’d recommend actually contacting the race directors before the run and explain the situation. Not saying all would be, but the person I contacted seemed to be quite reasonable and flexible.

  5. Here’s my view. I’m an organiser of running events (now in to my 11th year) which are done not for profit, where we are doing it in our spare time and any money made is invested back in to the races. If you enter one of my races, our race rules, refund policy etc are all clearly linked-to.

    I’ve chosen not to offer race-place transfers for a couple of reasons. The admin, whilst it is much easier these days, is still an overhead on me and when we have tried it, invariably causes issues further down the line. Often runners will change their name over, but won’t bother updating contact details or even their preferred t-shirt size – this just leads to disgruntled runners saying they’ve never received race packs or wondering why their t-shirt is the wrong size.

    In a popular event, we usually have a waiting list for places and as such, if someone can’t run, we think its more fair to make their place available to someone on the wait list.

    On the health & safety piece, runners should all complete medical info on the back of their numbers, so in the event of an emergency, the attending marshals and medical professionals should get the right info. However, depending on the length & difficulty of a race, we also ask runners to notify us of any medical conditions, medication etc and these details are held with our race team until the end of the event. In the event of an emergency, that’s the info we’ll be working off on the spot.

    Also, should the worst happen and our team has to make a call to someone’s emergency contact to give them bad or worse news, we are going off the records taken at time of entry and race registration. Which in the case above would be the wrong person. I don’t even want to be put in that position, not put one of the many volunteers who give up their time, to be put in that position.

    As I said, our rules are all there for you to read before you enter. If you don’t like them, please don’t enter. But still, very few people read them. I know I’m as bad as the next person when it comes to this sort of thing, but if I need to pull out of a race, I will then read the rules and if I can’t get a refund or defer, that’s fine, I just accept it as one of the risks of entering races.

    I find that runners will often ask if rule x, y or z applies to them or if they can be excused from following them because of a reason. Would a runner ask that of organisers of the London Marathon or The Great North Run? Just because I’m a small part time race organiser, people do seem to feel entitled to challenge me on many aspects of my events – not in a constructive criticism way – usually because they feel they’ve been wronged because they don’t agree to the rules and regs.

    I’ll also say that our rules have grown exponentially over the years, primarily because of runner behaviour. I’d love to have no rules other than using common sense and treating fellow runners & marshals with respect. That should go unsaid, but unfortunately there’s a growing minority who appear to be very selfish when it comes to running events.

    The end result of all of this is that I will stop putting events on. This isn’t a “woe is me” post, but whilst many runners appreciate all of the hard work that goes in to putting an event on, more and more seem to be taking events for granted. The fun has gone out of it and its a thankless task for very little reward. And that is why I know I’m not alone in considering stepping away from it.

    It would also be good to have an open forum to generate positive discussion around these issues, but unfortunately, as appears to have happened with this case in question, a social media witch-hunt goes in to full flow. Any reasoned discussion is lost in amongst polarising opinions at both ends of the spectrum – “they did nothing wrong”… “its the organisers fault for not allowing transfers”… to “they must never be allowed to run again”.

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