Note: this story is ongoing as as new information is made available this post may be update accordingly.
Gia Alvarez, an avid runner, blogger and running coach, has been banned from running the Boston Marathon and any other Boston Athletic Association events for life. Alvarez did two No-Nos in the racing world.
- She let someone else use her bib entry into a marathon.
- She used that person's time to qualify for the next Boston Marathon.
Outside of race officials, no one gives a flying fuck if you let someone else use your bib in a neighborhood 5K or local Turkey Trot. In larger races Bib Exchange is particularly common because of high price entry fees and the inability to transfer or defer ones race entry because of injury, health or family reasons. That doesn't necessarily make it right, but it is more of a misdemeanor in and of itself.
The second offense is more felony territory. Boston has strict qualification requirements and even if you meet the time requirement for your age group, you still might not get in because of "rolling admission process" the BAA uses. That means her entry most likely bumped someone else who genuinely qualified. That a blog dedicated “to work with runners and race officials to analyze race results and detect course cutters, bib swappers and other questionable results” exists and doesn't seem to be want for material tells you this is a bigger problem than you would think.
update (4/10/16): Derek from Marathon Investigation explains: "Basically, you were accepted if you beat the qualifying time by 2:30 minutes. They do not allow additional entries if someone is Disqualified after acceptance." This makes what Alvarez did even worse because even if she is found out before the race, there is no mechanism to identify and reward a legitimate qualifier a place in the next Boston Marathon.
The question here is did Alvarez know what she was doing was wrong? Because she actually posted on her blog that she was going to give her bib to a friend, it would appear that she wasn't aware that was a no-no or at least wasn't aware of how Big a Deal it was. According to her posts, she wasn't able to run in 2015 because she was pregnant and a miscarriage prevented her from taking part in 2014.
I'm not giving her a free pass but I will give her some credit. This is a hard thing to walk back from and she appears to be legitimately owning up to it. While she has closed comments on her blog (probably because of volume and/or trolls) she didn't hide critical (yet polite) comments that made it through like the Food Babe would have. While she didn't do herself any favors by taking three days to post an apology I'm going to cut her a little slack. We want everything fast in our Internet Age and the cost behind that is that Alvarez is still a human being who hopefully is processing the wrongness of what she did while also being a mom to a toddler who probably reaches for her keyboard whenever she starts to blog.
The question still remains: did she give her bib to a friend who happened to be fast enough to qualify for Boston with the intention that she could use that time to participate in the next Boston Marathon (2016)?
Hierarchy of Cheaters
I don't think Alvarez deserves to be banned for life. It's not like she pulled a Kip Litton and invented a fake marathon with a fake website, fake competitors, and a fake winner. Or had the unbelievable luck of Julie Miller who happens to lose her timing chips at just about every event she participates in.
She didn't kill anyone and she did qualify for Boston twice previously. According to her posts, she wasn't able to run in 2015 because she was pregnant and even asked for a pregnancy deferral. However, The BAA "stopped awarding deferrals for things like injury and pregnancy in 2010, except in extraordinary cases such as extreme weather or the 2013 bombings."
Because of course they did. I'm sure they had a valid reason for doing so, but in some way the BAA brings this upon themselves. The event is already so hard to get into that most runners never get the chance. Now you are making it even harder for the ones who do qualify. I've always thought that big races should have some type of bib deferral or transfer program just for this sort of thing.
To be clear, Alvarez broke the rules and should be punished. But the punishment should fit the crime. A lifetime ban is a bit extreme when a few years would do the trick of punishing her and serving as a warning to others.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.