Cheaters. Every race has them, and nobody likes them. But do they really pose a threat to local or even Regional events? To answer that questions, you first need to understand the three categories these scofflaws fit into: (1) cheaters who attempt to gain an unfair advantage by breaking the course rules (rule breakers), (2) cheaters who attempt to gain an unfair advantage by enhancing themselves artificially (dopers), and (3) cheaters who attempt to gain an unfair advantage by pretending to be a category much lower then their present skill level (sandbaggers).

Managing Rule Breakers
Cheaters who attempt to gain an unfair advantage by breaking the rules are tough to catch at local events. Although your first races will most likely not be big enough to attract anyone who would invest in any serious effort into cheating, there are some who might try to exploit a part of the course that your manpower could not cover. Fortunately, you should not find too many cheaters at this level of competition. But small races still need to be on the lookout for potential cheaters looking to get one over on you. In most cases, you need to be under the assumption that most people will be honest about their performance (e.g. not cut the course, switch bib numbers, or receive outside assistance) or technological advantage (e.g. trick bikes, shoes, navigation, or clothing). More often then not, most racers police themselves. However, if you see a point in your race that could have a potential for cheating, change it. By removing the temptation for racers to cut the course or expose a weakness in your design, you can mitigate most cheating attempts.

Managing Dopers
At the local or even regional level, you really don’t have the capability to enforce adherence to national or international race rules (e.g. anti-doping rules). Even if you could, the costs associated with testing athletes is extremely high, and the chances that you actually catch someone doping using local resources is very low. Some anti-doping events require more than one test to be preformed on every athlete in the competition. If you’re running a mountain bike race with only 100 riders, the cost of just testing the top 20 would be as much as your entire race budget. Not to mention the time it would take to get your results back. Except for testing or disqualifying racers for being drunk or appearing to be under the influence of mind-altering drugs (which you can do using your local medical staff or by calling 911 if you suspect something is wrong), you have little power over what your participants put into their bodies to win. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), must performance enhancing drugs are expensive, making your local race too “small” for the likes of any heavy dopers.

Managing Sandbaggers
Sandbagging, where a racer enters in a category lower than their experience level, is another area of concern that you should be aware of. The sandbagger can cause safety issues, ruin fair play by taking advantage of less experienced racers, and make your other paying customers not come back. Unfortunately, this type of behavior is difficult to control considering it often happens as an innocent oversight to someones perceived abilities. But there are those who know exactly what they are doing and pray upon local races to fuel their misdirected need to satisfy their small egos. The actions of a sandbagger are usually policed by the local racing community through peer pressure and should usually leave it to the particular racing community to solve this on its own. But if it becomes a problem, you need to act as the sandbagger police and be prepared to ask consistent sandbaggers to move up of leave.

Posted by Kyle Bondo

Kyle started Reckoneer with the simple mission of helping those who want to become race directors and learn the mechanics of outdoor recreation engineering. Kyle demystifies outdoor racing with over 20 years of endurance and outdoor industry business knowledge. Combined with his top-rated podcast Merchants of Dirt, dozens of articles, lessons, and infographics, Kyle has made Reckoneer the premier educator in outdoor event management. Build better races today!