This is a truly pathetic story.
Remember Rosie Ruiz? She was the ‘winner’ of the 1980 Boston Marathon. But after she won it in record time, some investigation showed that she had not run the whole course, and had just jumped back into the race at the end. Further investigation showed that she’d also cheated in the New York Marathon, which was where she did the time that qualified her for Boston.
Competitive stair climbing is an odd little sport. It’s done as a charity fund-raiser. There are no prizes, aside from cheap little medals and sometimes small trophies. There’s really nothing valuable at stake. So I guess nobody ever thought that anyone would think it worth the effort to cheat at this sport. But this time, someone did.
I was in the first wave of climbers, and we were done pretty early. And from the start, it the odds were on Jesse Berg to win. He’d won last year, and he is ranked as one of the top stair climbers in the world. So we were all surprised when we came down and saw the first set of times posted, and there was a name we didn’t recognize in first place, with a time that was 18 seconds faster than the course record. That record was set in 2010 by Javier Santiago, who is also one of the top-ranked stair climbers in the world.
Asking around, we found out that the unknown climber was a guy who worked for the building management company. When we saw him, we all immediately thought that he wasn’t capable of doing a time like that. Some of the guys went to talk to him, to ask him how he trained and to ask if he would climb the building again with them so they could see his technique. He said that he didn’t really train in any meaningful way. He said he plays basketball with his friends. Sheesh. At that point, he claimed he couldn’t climb again, due to having pulled his hamstring on the first climb. And he made a point of limping from that point on.
Needless to say, none of this passed the smell test.
Later on, another of our guys went to talk to him again, and specifically told him that we thought he had cheated. At that point, his friends started actually making veiled threats of physical violence if we didn’t stop saying we thought he’d cheated. And apparently, there was money at stake. He’d made bets with a lot of the other people who work at the building, and if he admitted to cheating, he was going to lose those bets.
When it was time for the awards, he made a point of limping up to the stage to get his first-place certificate and trophy.
This was all brought up with the race organizers, the timing company, and the building management. At first, they defended the guy. They really believed him when he said that he’d climbed the building in record time.
On Sunday, a friend of ours who is a sports writer contacted the guy to interview him about his ‘incredible performance’. We suspect that he figured out that people were on to him. But he still insisted that his time was real.
When the finish line pictures from the race were posted, we saw him coming out of the stairs, and based on where he was and who came out after him, he’s have had to have passed quite a few people we know on his way up. None of them remember seeing him. And anyone going that fast would have been pretty obvious.
On Monday, we heard through the grapevine that he’d confessed. That he admitted to using the freight elevator. But it turned out not to be true. But then, on Tuesday morning, we got word from the building management company that they had investigated, and they’d found that he did cheat. He was disqualified from the race, and ‘is no longer associated with the building’, as they said. We all presume that means he was fired from his job.
So here it is. The original sheet of posted results. The faker going up to accept the winner’s trophy. And then the revised results from the timing company’s web site, with the faker moved down to last place at the bottom.
Really doesn’t seem like it was a smart move on his part. And I guess on some level, our insane little sport has lost its innocence.
For another view of this incident, here’s a link to PJ Glassey’s writeup of it: http://www.flightclubseattle.com/2012/04/2012-aon-los-angeles-results/
Addendum: This has made the local news: http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/sports/Cheating-Accusation-in-Los-Angeles-Stair-climb-Fundraiser-146152105.html
Update 4/5/2012: Now it’s on the main MSNBC site: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46958185/ns/local_news-los_angeles_ca/t/stair-climb-champ-fired-alleged-cheating/
Update 4/6/2012: Unlike Mr Cheater, this story has legs. Now it’s made the jump across the Atlantic to Britain: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2125829/Miguel-Larios-Stair-climbing-champion-accused-cheating-took-lift.html
Update 4/7/2012: And now, look at the number one result in Google for a search for Mr Cheater:
Update 4/11/2012: Now he’s made Hispanically Speaking News: http://www.hispanicallyspeakingnews.com/notitas-de-noticias/details/latino-liar-stair-climber-believed-to-have-cheated-and-taken-elevator-durin/15081/