Organisers of a marathon in Beijing are taking a ‘great leap’ in the fight against cheats – using facial recognition to stop impostors in their tracks.
But the fear of failure in the age of social media has seen some racers seek any means to ‘achieve’ a respectable finishing time – including not even taking part in the race.
There has also been reports in China of people cheating in races where prizes are given for the top 100 contestants.
The Chinese Athletics Association (CAA) warned last month that it will serve lifetime bans for marathon cheats following a series of scandals involving unregistered runners taking someone else’s bib.
The tough regulations were announced after two runners died at the 2016 Xiamen International Half Marathon in eastern China’s Fujian province. One of the runners wore someone else’s bib in order to take part.
The 20,000 people competing in Beijing’s half marathon on Sunday will be required have their biometrics scanned before the race, China’s General Administration of Sport of China said this week.
“Practices such as hiring ringers and switching numbers bibs have been reported in marathons in Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai and Xiamen,” the Global Times newspaper said in a report on the ruling on Thursday.
Two female competitors had their results cancelled after last December’s Shenzhen marathon when it was discovered that two male ringers had run in their place.
Some 2.8 million people took part in marathons in China in 2016, almost twice the number from the previous year, according to official statistics.
Xinhua state news agency said increasing numbers of Chinese people seeking healthy lifestyles had resulted in many marathons being inundated with people wanting to register, often leaving many disappointed.
“However, some suspect the surging popularity of marathons is driven by a desire to score social media points rather than love of the sport,” Xinhua added.