If sports victories are to be celebrated, disqualifications are to be remembered because they often have such peculiar, random (or even criminal) aspects that they cannot go unnoticed.
In scattered time order, here are some of the most famous disqualifications in the world of athletics and running.
Is it her or her (twin) sister?
Madeline and Margaret de Jesús are Puerto Rican twin sisters participating in the 1984 Olympics. Both are athletes but with different athletic abilities; Madeline manages to qualify for the long jump while Margaret couldn’t make it. It then happens that Madeline gets injured just performing a long jump and is unable to take part in the relay. Problem solved: he sister runs pretending to be her (the other), who, with the team, even makes it to the finals. Unfortunately (for the two of them) watching the race is a reporter who is also an excellent observer, so much so that he notices a mole on her face that only one of them has. Denunciation, disqualification, ignominy, and a ban on participating in the relay for the entire Olympics until the end of time. Including the whole team and even the coach who had justified himself by saying he knew nothing about it, only to be later discovered to be part of the criminal plan.
2019 World Athletics Championships. 400m race, at the start there are 5 of them. Disqualified: all five. And to say that there are no outsiders: one of them is Abdalelah Haroun, who won silver in that very discipline the year before. Yet he commits a false start while everyone else (everyone) is disqualified for lane invasion.
It’s all a conspiracy
Kielder Marathon in England. It is 2011 and Rob Sloan qualifies third. Excellent performance, perhaps helped by the fact that from 32 km and until almost the end he runs it by bus. The fact is noticed by many who recognize him by a tattoo, including the bus driver who even remembers talking to him. “All untrue,” he claims, “Besides, would I ever be so dumb as to cheat to get only third place?” It must be a conspiracy, and all witnesses-even people who don’t even know each other-are following a plan. His argument holds very little water: he eventually confesses.
Tips on how to self-report
2011, Golden League, 3,000 steeplechase. Kenyan Christopher Koskei leads the race until compatriot Barmasai flanks him and says something to him. The former suddenly slows down and the latter wins. Will he have threatened him? Did he perhaps tell him that he has his car in the second row and that there are traffic cops there to give tickets? None of that: saying what happened is Barmasai himself, who in the post-race interview candidly states that he told him a few simple words, “Leave it to me,” meaning let me win it.
It was not a threat but an exchange between comrades who, as is often the case among Kenyans, decided to redistribute prize money in this way. In fact, since they are all or most capable of outstanding performance, they help themselves and their people in this way. Too bad that doing so is forbidden, which Barmasai later learned. Or at least he will have realized that sometimes it is better to keep his mouth shut.
Disqualified for being too fast
Let’s save the most recent one for last in this non-exhaustive list of disqualifications: in the 110 hurdles final at the world track and field championships last July, American Devon Allen was disqualified for false start. Okay, it happens. Except that this very false start redefined the concept of false start a bit.
Let’s begin from the rules: a start made within 0.1 seconds of the gunshot is considered such. Happens that Allen started exactly 0.099 seconds after the explosion, which means his false start was on the order of a thousandth of a second. That threshold is considered based on an athlete’s average reaction, that is, once the shot is heard, at least 0.1 second is considered to be required to react and start. Allen’s defensive argument, on the other hand, is that the disqualification is overly punitive because what can he do with it if he is quicker to react?
How did it end? The disqualification remained and he changed sports: he now plays in the NFL.