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Cheating in OCR

Posted by Evan Perperis on July 11, 2016 at 7:40 AM

Cheating: it is a topic that never seems to die, but like a horror-movie ghoul comes back again and again, only to be struck down again. OCR is like the rest of life where there are rules in place that a certain subset of people doesn’t think applies to them.


I recently started a new job as a criminal prosecutor and had to take an oath to support the law and our constitution. There is a concept in Minnesota law that the letter of the law should not be disregarded under the pretext of pursuing its spirit. I have found that the largest dichotomy in the OCR community comes from the clash between whether the spirit of the event or the letter of the rules should be followed. Each series has its own rules and its own effectiveness in governing them for those athletes running for prizes. Athletes attempting to make money off their races should absolutely be held to the letter of rules of the race.


There is far more ambiguity about what constitutes “cheating” in the less-strictly monitored open waves. Cheating in this context can affect a number of people: those attempting to qualify for age-groups at OCRWC, points series awards, or personal pride. It also has the less-tangible but more internet-rage-inducing effect of cheapening the race experience of others. The best analogy that puts this into perspective is a marathon: someone who doesn’t (do their burpees, skips an obstacle, gets help on an obstacle, etc.) is akin to someone that ran the first mile of the race, hopped on a bike to mile 26, and finished the final .2 miles on their feet.


There is greater ambiguity when it comes to an event like BattleFrog’s BFX, which has a competitive aspect (winner gets an awesome trident and top 3 qualify for OCRWC) and caters to the OCR enthusiast’s desire to run a course all day long. Prior to BattleFrog’s recent rule changes, all that was required for an “attempt” was to essentially tag the obstacle. For those running the race competitively there was an easy cost-benefit analysis: what would bet shorter and leave me less drained… Platinum Rig or Body-Builders? By the letter of the rules and from a tactical standpoint, tagging the obstacle and doing your penalty seemed like the wise choice. But many people argued that despite what the rules said, the spirit of the race demands an honest attempt and a failure before doing a penalty. It is an OBSTACLE course race… right?


To go back to the example of BFX, BattleFrog’s new implementation has largely addressed the concern of “tagging”. However, in adding intermediate and novice options to obstacles, and permitting BFX participants to use any lane it has opened a new question for competitive BFX racers. The rules clearly permit the use of the novice lanes on all obstacles. So if a racer were trying solely to get the best time they would want to use the novice lanes throughout the course. Other BFX participants (myself included) would argue that in the context of this event, it is the spirit of the race to do the obstacles on the elite level until you cannot complete it, if after a couple honest attempts you feel your body can no longer do the obstacle, use the intermediate lane, and eventually the novice lane, or penalty loop.


I fully recognize that policing such a system is impossible, that is why BFX is largely based upon an honor system. But that is what the winner should feel: honor. And what will feel more honorable: completing five laps of elite level rigs, or seven novice rigs?


So, what is cheating? When an advantage is the result of cutting a course, skipping an obstacle, shorting your burpees, or taking a banned supplement the answer appears clear. But when someone acts within the technical strictures of the rules to gain a tactical advantage is that cheating or racing smart? The answer often turns on the questioner; someone racing for placement will do whatever they can justify within the rules to get the quickest time, but someone else may see that even if they are not cheating a competitor out of a podium spot or a cash prize, they are cheating themselves out of an experience to better themselves.


Kevin is a member of Team Strength and Speed's OCR Development Team. He is a running and OCR enthusiast in the pre-dawn hours and weekends, but spends most days as a criminal prosecutor in Carver County Minnesota.


Categories: OCR, Kevin A. Hill