Meet Mike Rossi:
Radio DJ, Philly-area runner, and recent viral sensation.
As seen in the picture above, Mr. Rossi recently ran the Boston Marathon. He and his wife had taken his two elementary-aged children out of school to attend the weekend festivities, and when he returned home, he received the following letter from his children's principal:
This letter did not sit well with Mr. Rossi, who then published the following open-letter response on Facebook:
His letter definitely struck a nerve with the American populace, because it quickly made the rounds of social media and was picked up by the mainstream media. Mr. Rossi was subsequently interviewed by national newspapers and tv programs alike.
People praised him for standing up to the school, which in turn sparked a conversation on parenting and the state of public schools in America. Mr. Rossi became an instant folk hero with many dubbing him "Dad of the Year."
Only problem is, while Mr. Rossi was basking in the media attention, the principal who had sent the original letter started to receive attention of a different kind. She received hundreds of threatening e-mails and middle-of-the-night prank calls from people who chose to focus on a simple form letter rather than her lifelong dedication to children and education.
Her son eventually came to her defense, writing an impassioned letter to stop the madness. To his credit, Mr. Rossi also called for a cease fire regarding the principal.
This all would have died down shortly thereafter were it not for the passionate crew of running nerds over at Letsrun.com. Someone looked into the race he ran to qualify for Boston - a 3:11 performance at the Via Marathon in Lehigh, PA - and raised the suspicion that he had likely cheated.
The accusation stems from two main pieces of evidence:
- Professional photographers were stationed at several points along the course, yet Rossi appears in only the finish line photos.
- None of his other race results of varying distance support his ability to hold a 7:17 pace over 26.2 miles.
In addition, the Via Marathon only employs timing mats at the start and finish, meaning he could have exited the course and reentered down the line without anyone knowing. Mr. Rossi's reaction upon running such an outlier race and qualifying for Boston for the first time also seems curious. Normally one to splash his accomplishments everywhere online, he was almost silent after his big accomplishment.
Mr. Rossi has since shut down or made private all of his social media accounts, and refuses to provide any evidence that he ran an honest race that day in Lehigh. The race director has called on the USATF to assist in a full investigation in the matter, which could result in his disqualification from both the Via Marathon and the Boston Marathon, and a lifetime ban from both.
The turns this story has taken have been fascinating, and it raises numerous questions about our sport: Why do some people cheat? How do they cheat, and how can this be prevented in the future? If the person cheating is some Joe Schmo who isn't winning awards, does it really matter? Is such a thorough investigation and punishment necessary?
While I don't think the evidence is outright conclusive, I do think there is a strong probability that he cheated, and that makes me sad. It is simply beyond me how anyone could cheat, especially when there is no money involved. When I didn't get into Boston the first time, there is no way I would have cheated to get in. Instead, it only made me want to train harder and officially make it in. I never could have lived with myself if I ran the Boston Marathon without having earned it.
It seems ironic that Mr. Rossi purposefully sought out the spotlight in dealing with his children's principal, and that same spotlight brought him into this current mess. It is my sincere hope that Mr. Rossi gets what he deserves, be that redemption and an apology from his accusers, or the aforementioned disqualification and lifetime ban.