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Attackpoint - performance and training tools for orienteering athletes

Discussion: Cheating

in: Orienteering; Training & Technique

Dec 24, 2004 7:43 PM # 
I'm breaking this off into a different thread because the facet that I want to talk about has nothing to do with Eddy Hellebuyck, which is where this topic came up.

In the discussion about doping, Randy mentioned that he is aware of people in the US intentionally taking controls out of order and I find this interesting. I want to make it clear that I don't doubt Randy's account for a moment, but I have never been aware of any such incidents myself. (I did hear an anecdote once about somebody finding out punch patterns and punching his card with a pin -- unconvincingly.) I have been of the opinion that there's not enough at stake in US orienteering for anyone to want to bother to cheat. (Actually, I am aware of one such case of cheating, which occurred at the 1000-Day, but it was a foreigner who committed it.) I guess I'm interested in finding out more about whether this is widespread, whether other people have witnessed it.

One of the reasons I'm interested is that this bears on one of the advertised benefits of e-punching, which I'm known to be lukewarm on. It has been pointed out that e-punching allows courses to be set on small maps, with legs that cross each other, without fear of people taking controls out of order. It has been my position that, while this is true, that the same courses can be set with pin punching, since we don't (in the US) have a problem with dishonesty.

What's your experience? Do we have a widespread problem with people taking controls out of order? Are there other forms of cheating going on? For this discussion, I'm not interested in the blurry topic of following. I guess intentionally trying to find out about the course in advance would be relevant, and maybe other things that you might think of.

Relating back to Randy's point, I think there is a significant difference between taking controls out of order and doping. One can be a spur of the moment decision, with no effects beyond the course. The other requires significant preparation, needles, health risks, and possibly illegal activity. But I agree that there are ways in which they are related.
Dec 24, 2004 8:57 PM # 
I think we are pretty loose about asking for or giving aid, as in, "Did you find #7 yet?" Also, we have a prohibition against following, but it's pretty hard to avoid, at least for a while, when one is caught up by a competitor.
Reminds me of golf. Duffers routinely nose their balls around to find a likely looking patch of grass to hit from. That would be something like a 1000 stroke penalty in a real tournament.
Dec 25, 2004 3:04 AM # 
There will always be people who cheat, regarless of the stakes. I don't think this is a big problem in US Orienteering - certainly not enough of one to soley justify the expense and effort of e-punching.

Manned controls are the old-fashioned (and effective) means of dealing with the out-of-order problem. Ski-O has a solution that I always liked: at some point you may be asked to punch twice. All your subsequent punches get shifted by one box. Unless you know if and where the double punch is, you can't know where to punch your card if you're taking one out of order.
Dec 25, 2004 4:15 AM # 
Thanks for starting this thread, jj and Randy. Yes, I know of a case of cheating. It was a case of blatant following. I realize that following is mostly a "fuzzy" issue, but there are cases that can be proved, and yes, following is strictly forbidden by USOF rules (except in certain cases like the Billygoat where following is a highly vaunted tradition and even has its own award - the prestigious Jockstuffer) As I see it, the no-following rule applies to any interval-started race in the US, so mass-start races like the relay, sometimes the long champs, the Highlander, etc this rule does not officially apply, and is the reason the relay and long champs are usually not rankable. Needless to say, those are all fine races in their own right.

I am of the opinion that there is indeed incentive to cheat. I personally take my racing and my ranking very seriously. Ranking points helped me make the team this year. Points matter. Period. People want points. Unscrupulous types will cheat to get them. There is also some incentive to "get your name in lights" so to speak by winning or placing well in national championships events. There is prestige at stake. Cheating is bad. This year is the closest I have ever come to filing an offical protest over a case of cheating, but my own performance at that particular meet was so poor that I chose not to do so. Why not you might ask? Thats kindof hard to answer, but its something akin to what a good orienteer might do when they know there is a problem with a course that could have it thrown out but they don't file a protest because it would do more harm to more people than good.

Blatant following is difficult to prove, because as stated above people will naturally group together and sometimes choose the same routes and even travel at the same speed. In most of those cases there is no intentional following. In some situations where one of the two orienteers is much MUCH more experienced than the other then the following case can be made stronger, but even then it would be difficult to prove and in no one's best interest to pursue.

In the case I am referring to, all orienteers involved were very experienced and very fast runners, the alleged following took place on TWO consecutive days, with two
DIFFERENT victims being followed. In both cases there are posted splits which clearly show the "perp"'s mean speed slower than the two victims, then the remaining 10 or so splits are locked perfectly to the person being followed - within seconds. In both cases, the victims both reported (to me) that this person was clearly following them. In one case, the person said "at one point I was slipping backwards while climbing up a steep hill and he pushed on my ass to help me up...thats how close he was!" Also on this particular course there was a leg which came right through the finish on the second day, and the case of following was not only witnessed by some 20 or 30 other orienteers, one person even shouted "look at yer map!", at which point the person did actually lift the map and have a look at it, whereas the leader hardly glanced up from his to see where he was going as they came through the crowd. I can make this case right now using online results, and I think its a pretty solid case. At this point it probably wouldn't do anyone any good to pursue it, but at the time I was really steamed about it. It was a major championships event. I personally didn't drop any places because of it, but I can prove that some people did by simply looking at the splits. The person didn't medal so I decided at that time that I would let it go, but if it had happened at the team trials later that year I would have raised a stink about it thats for sure! And you can bet I'm keeping a very close eye on this person. Cheating really burns me up. Fairness is *so* important in this sport.

It always amazes me that anyone would flat-out follow in an orienteering race. I just can't understand it. I orienteer because I love solving the problems. Turning off the brain and letting someone else have all the fun would make it just a waste of time. Likewise winning without doing the work would be hollow. Orienteers as a group are the most honest, upstanding people I have ever met. We could hold a race where people timed themselves and didn't have to punch and for almost everyone I know we'd have a clean, fair race. Even if there were ranking points at stake, I could trust all of them not to cheat. So seeing one or two bad eggs in the bunch is disappointing. I guess that's part of jj's point in asking about this.
Dec 25, 2004 7:22 AM # 
A guy followed me very closely on day 2 of the U.S. Champs at Combat Village a couple years ago. He latched on at control #5, I think. I won the day, so it was definitely a help to him. When I was unsure a couple of times and slowed down, the guy slowed with me and checked his map to try to figure out where we were. When I overshot one control, he went right along with me. These things lead me to believe that I was doing the vast majority of the navigating. I'm pretty sure he wasn't U.S. Champs eligible, so I didn't worry too much about it.
Dec 25, 2004 1:00 PM # 
Following and asking for help are something of a separate case, which is why I kind of excluded them in my introductory posting. They are still worthy of discussion, but not my primary interest, for several reasons. One is that it's incredibly hard to define and draw a line -- there's not a person among us who hasn't found a control because someone was coming out of it. And you really can't prove it by splits -- I think with you splits could make a clear case that Alar RuutopƵld followed me for half the course at the EMPO meet at Thacher this fall, but that isn't true at all. In addition, my experience is that the reality in Europe is so far removed from our standards that it's appalling (I have had someone literally try to grab my map at a control in Europe to see where he was, and another ask "Is control #321 up there?"). I have a hard time picturing someone getting disqualified for following, and I'm unaware of any mechanism that we use to prevent it. Perhaps following warrants a separate discussion.
Dec 25, 2004 2:01 PM # 
Sounds like the person in Eddie's example got extra 'ass' istance. Sorry for the pun. ;-)

It is Christmas so a good feeling message first. All checkpoints at THOMASS (our winter series) are hand-touch only. Now in its 11th season with over 4000 total participant starts we have only had one complaint about a person not going to a required checkpoint. Sure it ain't a championship but it is highly competitive and with an elite field that is as strong as many Nor-Am 'A' meets.

Anyway, having been the 'engine' of several 'trains' over the years I can tell you that following IS an issue in North American orienteering. Given that we have a lack of depth, a person can do well despite a 2, 4, or even 8 minute starting deficit to a good orienteer. BUT increasing the start interval is not the answer. Instead I would encourage North American course planners to use "butterfly loops" for classic and long distance events to break up these "trains". Also organizers need to be reminded that the start draw is supposed to be random (each day).

Having said that I would also like to encourage more farsta (I prefer to call it O-Cross) head-to-head forked races. We need this experience for the WOC relay where following most definately happens and we need to realize (whether we like it or not) that we need people who can 'follow' other orienteers in relays to get a better result. In this term the word 'follow' is used loosely since 'followers' need to navigate at the same time (ie., to figure out when a fork is happening).
Dec 25, 2004 5:17 PM # 
The discussion on following and forking reminds me of the Long-O championships in St. Louis many years ago. It was a mass start run with unannounced and random forking. That is, the maps were just different, and handed out randomly at the start. Several of us (including I) came a cropper on the very first control. The forked first controls were on a straight line, with mine 75 meters beyond the other one. One was in a reentrant, the other in a dry ditch. Being young and speedy then, I was near the very substantial lead pack and reached in to punch, not even considering checking the code. People who were slower came to the flag without the crush of people around read the code, or just navigated properly and continued on properly. A control or two later I got behind Peter and followed him for a bit, surprised by his strange route choice, but determined to hang on. After a while I realized he was going someplace else and I had to re-group and figure out how to get back. It still hadn't occurred to me that the course was forked. I thought maybe he was just on a different course. Several of us who had mispunched the first control (I recall Steve Tarry was another) were DQd and filed a protest, but got nowhere with it. I'm still kind of pissed off, but then again it's only been about 18 years or so. I'll probably get over it. As far as I know that was the last experiment in unannounced forking.
Dec 26, 2004 1:27 AM # 
Hey Hammer, I had your back at the Billygoat ;)

On a more serious note, from my experience in European competition, following is not a big deal in Europe. I know it is highly looked down upon here in the States (in races other than the Billygoat of course :) ) but it Europe nobody even seems to notice.

I remember watching the WOC in Finland (2001) on the big screen at the finish. During the Classic Final where the best finishers from the qualifier start last, you would consistently see little trains of competitors going in and out of controls, most of them with their maps in their pockets. And this was on live television at the finish, and everyone witnessed it.

This is also quite common at PWT races where prize money is involved.

I am not trying to condone following. I agree that it is really annoying when someone gets a good result only because they followed someone, however, is it really something that you should file a protest over? I don't know if USOF has any rules regarding following, but I would highly doubt that the IOC has any. I can think of too many examples in international competition where competitors were blatantly following other competitors, and no one seemed to care.
Dec 26, 2004 1:41 AM # 
I just thought of a perfect example.

At the Oringen in Gothenburg this past summer, on day 2 Matthias Merz, Junior World Champion from Switzerland and considered by many to be the most dominant male Junior ever, came running in to the finish followed closely by Julian Dent, a very good Junior from Australia, but nowhere near as good as Merz. The announcer was immediately surprised to notice that Dent had started after Merz and therefore had the best result thus far in the H-20 Elite class. Dent was interviewed shortly after finishing, and the interviewer asked him what had happened out there. I don't remember the exact words that he used, but he flat out stated that he followed Merz after catching up to him at the first control which Merz had missed, and when the interviewer repeated what Dent said, emphasizing the fact that Dent had admitted following Merz, Dent acknowledged it.

Dent ended up placing third that day, and no one complained.
Dec 26, 2004 1:44 AM # 
I just glanced at USOF and IOF rules. I couldn't find one that required forking to be announced. But it should be obvious when you see something like A, B1, C1, D in one part of your clue sheet and A, B2, C2, D in a later part of the clue sheet, whether the course is a full blown farsta format or a smaller butterfly loop set-up, like the latest WOC used in the long final.

There is some verbage in IOF 12.10 and 12.12 that implies that forking of some sort should be an automatic part of mass starts and relays. In IOF Appendix 6, sect 3.2 has some verbage that backs up MikeW's wish for butterfly loops to break up the trains in classic and long races.

Charlie's description makes it look like that course went A1, B, C, D1, but you don't mention if you went back to do A2, B, C, D2. If you didn't go back, then that would mean that competitors ran different courses altogether. That wouldn't be acceptable now, but I'm not enough of a historian to know if it was prohibited back then.

JJ, I'm sorry your thread got hijacked. It looks like we all wanted to talk about following instead. I haven't seen the out of order deal happen at an A-meet, although almost every local meet seems to have one or two inexperienced jokers who insist on taking controls in any order, or doing the course backwards.

The possibilty is always there at A-meets and it should be defended against. Between the enforcement issues and the benefits of splits to the competitors (especially those of us who aren't coordinated enough to operate a fancy watch and orienteer at the same time), I hope you'll come around in favor of e-punching.
Dec 26, 2004 2:12 AM # 
At the St Louis Long-o in 1986 there was no indication on the map to show that the courses were forked. That is, my map showed the controls numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, etc., and the next guy's showed the same numbering, but some of them were different controls. The courses were absolutely different, and people did not visit all the controls. I was angry in particular because they did it on the first control in a mass start with no notice. When you expect that everyone will have the same course, and you go to the correct feature (a shallow reentrant) and you are in a huge pack grabbing for the punch, it is unreasonable to require that you check the code, and unreasonable to expect that someone would notice that it was 50 m. too short. Of course, the standard at the time for St Louis meets often involved controls more than 50 meters from the mapped feature anyway. There were some protests at the time that it was inappropriate to have a race in which competitors did not visit the same controls. That was not accepted either for some reason. I'm sure it was contrary to the rules.
Dec 26, 2004 2:49 AM # 
>I don't know if USOF has any rules regarding following, but I would highly doubt that the IOC has any.

USOF Rules

35.2 It is forbidden to obtain outside help or collaborate in running or navigation except in a non-competitive class.

35.3 A competitor shall not seek to obtain unfair advantage over fellow competitors, nor intentionally run with or behind other competitors during the event in order to profit from their skill.

IOF Rules

26.2 In an individual interval start race, competitors are expected to navigate and run through the terrain independently.

>...and no one complained.

I won't paste the entire IOF Rules 27 and 28, titled Complaints and Protests. I also won't pretend to know about the culture in elite orienteering, since I don't run all that fast and the only international meets that I have attended are NAs here in the US. You also have to deal with the fact that, presuming you keep training and stay on top, that you'll be competing against and traveling with these guys for the next 20 years or so, maybe even longer.

The rules I cited make it clear than you would be well within your rights to complain and protest yourself. I'd like to see you do such a thing, but I don't have to bear the possible consequences of any such action.

This is just a random thought on the road back from Utopia: Maybe USOF should send as JWOC and WOC team officials a couple of true-believing older crudmugeon types (BMcAllister, MCommons , FKuhn, C&LFerguson {they may not be actual crudmugeons}, CDurand {ok, she's not old}, S&RShannonhouse {ok, she's not old either}) that wouldn't worry about peer pressure and social-type paybacks. They could take a stand and use Rules 27-28 to run meet officials through the ringer with every video image and interview that shows a following violation. It would have to be planned in advance and be the primary agenda for that person. It would be an extra team official, since the team would need the original offical to handle the normal coaching and admin duties.
Dec 26, 2004 2:50 AM # 
re: JJ's original thread topic. In my opinion taking CP's out of order has not and is not an issue. ie., I don't feel there are cheaters doing this. If the option existed to cheat then (and if it has happened) the organizers should have had a supervised CP of two (or at least threatened it by adding the little man on the description sheet and mentioning in race notes). With SI it is impossible to take CP's out of order so JJ if you are concerned with people cheating by taking CP's out of order then e-punching solves it. At the Boulder Dash last year you used some fancy palm PC at the start so you must be pro technology! E-punching is here to stay. So like MBrooks said "I hope you'll come around in favor of e-punching".

Back to following.... ;-) (sorry JJ).
Yes John F. did a great job at following me in the Billygoat (there is a good story there but that is for another time). But I agree that following will never be a protestable (if that is a word) act. Perhaps those that are being followed should just train more and run faster so that others can't join the train! Having said that one of the most enjoyable races I have done was my first Billygoat where Dave Dunham followed me for 98% of the race.

In the end I agree with Eddie that orienteers are "the most honest, upstanding people I have ever me". While following can be viewed as a problem (especially when organizers break rules for assigning start times) it is a small problem compared to all the cheating and crap that exists in other sports. Almost every trail run or adventure race I have been in I have seen individuals/teams breaking rules. 'nuff said.
Dec 26, 2004 5:59 AM # 
Nobody would dare take a control out of order at an ORCA meet. We use our most fearsome control official whenever there's a risk!
Dec 26, 2004 7:01 AM # 
On the following issue, I find the USOF rule prohibiting collaboration quite surprsing. It's such a fuzzy area, I'm curious to know what other peoples' ideas are of the ethics when running in a pack. The packs that form in a race are clearly collaborative, in that most of the people involved get a boost. Maybe the rule is saying that there should be no premeditated plan to gain advantage in that way?

So, how do you behave when you're in a pack? I don't believe it's possible to just run your own race. You see what the others do, and the power of suggestion is pretty strong. Is the 'honest' approach to constantly try and break away from the pack, by out-running it or out-smarting it? Or, if we realise the pack is moving faster than we could orienteer on our own, should we just slow up, let it go, then pick up our own race? I've never done the latter, but often do the former, making problems for myself by running too fast and screwing up, or making a bad route choice in an attempt to be different. I guess what I'm saying is that when you're in a pack, you either collaborate with those around you, or you risk penalising yourself. The best strategy, if the pace of the pack is high enough to stretch you, seems to be to coast near the back and let the hares seek out the controls while you run a steady pace looking for your chance to make a break with a clever route choice. This is illegal, I presume, though it's a form of following that happens all the time.

Say you're approaching a bingo-ish control through vague terrain, with a runner on your course just ahead. I remember wise old orienteers telling me that the smart thing to do is to run a slightly different line to the other orienteer, but to keep an eye on them. If they nail the control, you'll see that. If they miss, chances are that you will hit it cleanly yourself, so long as you picked the right side of their line to run. I guess that's cheating?

Hows about if you're approaching a point feature control on a steep slope. You're contouring into the control, but the clear route out is to drop directly downslope from it. Those controls are easy to lose time on, but a smart thing to do would be to run a contour or two low and watch out for the scuffed exit route down the slope. Is that legal? What if you use orienteers exiting the control to guide you back to it? Is that premeditated following?

Just curious where different people draw that ethical line!
Dec 26, 2004 12:51 PM # 
There's no question that e-punching keeps people from taking controls out of order. But that's something that I have not been concerned about, and I'm wondering whether I should be, in light of Randy's observations. And I'm not anti-technology. The barcode scanner is to keep track of who has started, and we started using it because its more reliable that trying to read somebody's handwriting. My feelings about e-punching are a separate topic, and as I said, I'm lukewarm on it.

For the ethics of following, I think you can apply a two-part litmus test to your own actions that will at least let you know if you're in the category of the most egregious offenders:
1) Have you been looking at your map at all?
2) If the person(s) you've been running with suddenly disappeared, would you know where you are well enough that you could continue without having to stop and think?
In Goat races, it's not uncommon for me to answer "no" to these two for the first leg, and at times for several legs. If you've got your map in your pocket, you're following. If you're running as part of a pack, that's somewhat different, and I'd say no, you aren't obligated to let them get away. Graeme Achkland has written a mathematics paper on the dynamics of this effect, unfortunately I don't have a link to it.
Dec 27, 2004 3:18 PM # 
But [taking controls out of order is] something that I have not been concerned about, and I'm wondering whether I should be, in light of Randy's observations.

Since I'm the only one in this thread that has apparently seen it, and my rate of seeing it is well below 1%, it is obviously not a widespread issue. (And this was club meets, not A meets, but I personally believe that would not make a difference in the observed rate). Since I race alot, I guess I'm more likely to see rare (or at least difficult to observe) events (remember, no one will cheat if they know someone is observing them, so the real rate can never be known without some sort of careful experimental design, and that probably isn't worth the bother, tho I have seen talk of "stealth cameras" in the woods, so be careful :-)).

What surprised me was the experience level of the people -- not the clueless newbie one would expext would do this accidently.

I think my only point in bringing this up in the doping thread was that the orienteering cheating rate is non-zero, therefore I don't personally think it is reasonbable to assume a priori that the doping rate would be zero (just because we don't cheat). Yes, the bar is higher, but if the incentive to improve results (even at local meets of all places) artifically is observed, all bets are off, IMHO. (Of course, we can't prove cheating, perhaps honest mistakes were made, but given the experience level in question and the particular course design, I concluded the odds of this were low).

As to following, that thread can get into some very interesting philosophical issues -- in particular -- 'just because everyone does it, is it right' - (the "Europe" defense of following), but I'll once again spare the audience of philosophical digression, despite my strong leaningsand keen interest in these issues :-)

In any case, I personally feel following is out of the spirit and should be grounds for disqualification if it can be proven, despite its acceptance in Europe. As to drawing the ethical line, I think pack running is ok, and "using others" is ok (I mean, are you expected to look/go the other way or close your eyes? -- part of the "problem solving" is observing and using all available information), but you have to be navigating yourself. If you are running thru the woods with somene else, and not navigating yourself, you are cheating. I guess that is the line, for me, and agree it is quite vague.

That said, I've seen cases that I think a reasonable jury would be able to judge are over it. So, the line is vague, and quite wide, but some things still fall (and I think can be proven) to fall on the cheating side of it.
Dec 27, 2004 6:56 PM # 
I remember from Simon Beck's writings several years ago a technique to use when running in a pack. As I recall the gist of it was to let the leaders do all the hard work of route selection and leading while you study the map around the control itself. When the pack nears the control you are able to lead them in since you have studied the final approach. No one will accuse you of following when you lead them in. I think it was one of his non-serious writings, but I find it works well in the Billygoat when not following PG. Peter does not hesitate on the final approach so there is little to be gained.
As I think about it now, this still requires quite a bit of skill. reading the map along the way so you know when the control is close, recognizing the attack points, and even planning the next leg since as the first in, you also lead the start of the next leg until passed by the pack.
Dec 27, 2004 10:38 PM # 
I wouldn't say that following is accepted in Europe. I've been racing since 1985, mostly in Sweden, and in my experience following has always been regarded as a "bad" thing to do. Paragraph 7.4.4 in the Swedish competition rules clearly state that following is not allowed. It also says that if a runner feels that he is being followed, he should "reject" the person following, i.e. verbally telling the competitor to stop following. Kent Olsson, world champion 1987, was famous for using this rule and telling people to stop following him during races.

A competitor who feels that he has been followed can report this to the competition jury, which will investigate and decide whether the follower should be disqualified. Competitors have been disqualified for following, but it is extremely rare because the competitor being followed rarely reports the incident. In the case of Mertz and Dent at Oringen, Dent would have definitly been disqualified if only Merz had filed a complaint with the competition jury.

There has been much heated debate throughout the years on this subject. The same stuff over and over again, how to define following, how to prove it, where to draw the ethical line and so on. Unfortunately, it has also somehow become a "bad" thing to report following. I guess there is a fear to be labelled as a rat. Instead, the runners who are known as followers, are sort of silently frozen out in the community. Personally I think it would be much better if it was a perfectly normal thing to report following and make it more clear that it is not allowed.
Dec 28, 2004 1:42 AM # 
Here's an interesting article from Orienteering Online about following in the Finnish Champs.
Dec 28, 2004 1:44 AM # 
I can think of one instance in an A-meet where someone cleary took controls out of order and earned a medal as a result. That person was junior, and this would not have affected rankings in anyway; however, that person definately knew what he or she did was wrong. His/her reason for cheating was that he/she had overshot one control (control 4, say) and ended up close to the next one (#5). It was faster to get 5 and then run back 4.
I would also suggest that this form of cheating is more difficult to detect than following. In following, at least one person can see what the other is doing. However, the person I was talking about would not have been caught if he/she had not been seen by a fellow club member as he/she approached control 6 from the direction of 4, at which point he/she asked the other person not to tell.
Personally, I am in favour of e-punching as a means of preventing this form of cheating. Not only does it prevent impulsive cheating, it also allows organizers to make use of smaller areas by using loops on courses and having controls nearer to each other.
Dec 28, 2004 4:22 PM # 
I can see two solutions to the problem with following:

1: Use the rules that are already in place and start to regularely report offenders. If only someone would have filed a complaint against Dent and the Lakanen brothers, the jury would have had no choice but to disqualify them. Soon it would become very clear that we have these rules and that if you break them you get disqualified.

2: Remove the rules all together and use forking on all important individual races. More work for the organizers, but maybe a better solution for the sport in the long term.

I'm not sure...
Dec 28, 2004 6:30 PM # 
A third solution would be to drop the rule(s) against following. I doubt this solution would garner much support, but if no efforts are going to be made to enforce the rule, then logically the rule should be dropped. I remember a blatant case from the 1989 World Championships which was captured on the TV coverage. If race officials won't take action during a world championship with incontrovertible evidence, then when? As far as I know, not a single person has ever been turned in for following in the US, while clearly following takes place.
Dec 28, 2004 7:41 PM # 
I can't help but think of a rules analogy with hockey (sorry I'm hockey starved at the moment although yesterday's Canadian thrashing of Sweden helped ...sorry pi). Anyway, the NHL wants to 'speed-up' the game and are thinking of ways to do so. BUT all they have to do is enforce the rules (get rid of hooking, clutch and grab, etc) so players' speed is not slowed down. BUT players have gotten away with these infractions for years and now it is considered common and allowed. How much of a hook is worth a penalty?

For orienteering: Is following now considered comon and allowed even though people know it is a 'bad thing'? No penalties are being called for following but new rules are created (butterfly loops, longer start intervals, etc.) to 'improve' the results.

How much following is considered illegal? Because there is such a large grey area here I really don't think you are going to see people get DQ'd unless they admit to it. BUT if they know the rule will be enforced I doubt they will admit to it. Participant's know that you won't get DQ'd so they do it and openly talk about it. So I don't see Pi's #1 solution working. There is no way to determine if a person is following. Just because they aren't looking at their map in the vicinty of CP's doesn't mean they haven't memorized it. Same route doesn't imply following since many times straight is the way to go. So unless a person says "Yeah I followed" it can't be policed. So I see PI's #2 solution as the best alternative (as I stated earlier in the thread). The next question is how much forking? O-Cross? Butterfly loops? Only long distance?

Maybe Swampfox's #3 solution deserves a look. Say for long courses you allow following but to make it fairer you start people all at the same time (that way each person has the same opportunity to follow - no luck of the draw). But to try to break up packs you allow people to skip one CP somewhere on the course. This race format attracts more people to the sport since they have a chance to win and likely the best navigators would still win.
;-) BTW, when/where is the 2005 Billygoat?

Dec 28, 2004 10:04 PM # 
What is the difference between solution #2 and #3?
Dec 28, 2004 10:58 PM # 
The article from Orinteering online is REAL ! It is a interesting point of view, and it would be good to have something come out of it as a IOF rule that the national federations will have to incorporate in their own oficial competition rules.The following-cheating as described in the "O" online article is going on everywhere and I have seen it happening here in US quite often at all levels of competition.
Dec 29, 2004 1:21 AM # 
Pi, the difference is that in one instance (your #2) that organizers take active steps to impede following via various forking systems, while in the other (my #3), there is no pejorative any longer at all associated with following. Maybe some organizers have races with forking for whatever reasons, and maybe just some have regular races, and what happens, happens. I'm not advocating, but rather just throwing out another possibility.
Dec 29, 2004 1:57 AM # 
"There is no way to determine if a person is following."

USOF Ski-O Rule 21.1 (partial)
"The jury may disqualify a competitor for "following" if it finds s/he cannot draw the route skied, or upon other evidence."

Let me ask a question that this rule leads to. How likely is it that a person who is following would be able to draw their route? I presume that most orienteers, if stuck in a pack but still reading the map and making their own navigational decisions, would be able to draw their route.

This seems to me to be a possible way for a jury to judge is someone was following, or just stuck in the pack, although not perfect. And it still requires someone to file a complaint/protest to get the person following in front of a jury to begin with.

Mihai, what rule is missing that you'd like to see the IOF force on us? Rules against following are in the rule books, they just aren't being enforced as strongly as they should be. It may be due to competitors not bothering to protest or it may be juries that are lenient (or maybe some juries went lenient and the rest of us gave up - wasn't there a relevant incident at WOC93). I can't imagine the existence of an additional rule would change that.
Dec 29, 2004 12:27 PM # 
Is it less of a violation for a good orienteer to save several minutes by running with a pack than for a lesser orienteer to save more time by just sticking his map in his pocket? As amply noted in this thread, running in a pack is virtually unavoidable the way races are structured now. I think this may be more of an issue for the non-elite classes, where the difference in performance running in a pack versus alone appears to be more dramatic. I experienced total glasses fog in this year's Blue Hills Traverse, to the point where I just couldn't clear them and was unable to see the map at all on several legs. I think I probably ended up with a faster time than I might have with clear vision, as I had little choice but to run in a pack, and I'm too independent for that if I can see.

Any rule on following is likely to be enforced vaguely and erratically. Maybe it's good to make an example of someone, but I don't see it as a fix. Each race is a different experience for every runner - sometimes you get help finding a control, sometimes a minor distraction turns into a major loss of time. The goal of absolute fairness is an unreasonable expectation, given the current infrastructure.

Besides, the best orienteer always wins, no matter what the "unfairness" in the race (almost always, anyway).
Dec 29, 2004 6:14 PM # 
The Lakanen brothers would both have been able to draw their routes. This brings up a difference between "following" and "running together". In the first case, one person is doing little or no navigating, in the second, both are.

There was an incident at WOC93 where a meet official (a control monitor taking splits) reported a case of a competitor asking another competitor where she was, and being shown. A clear violation. This was reported to the officials from the IOF, who took no action on this incident. My recollection (which could be wrong) is that their rationale was that since not all such cases could be caught, it was inappropriate to take action on just this one. There were also incidents reported (by me) at the World Cup final in 1992, same deal.

A butterfly loop *might* separate two competitors, but it is not guaranteed to do so, because a) if they are reasonably matched in ability, they might come out of the butterfly close enough that they are still in visual contact, and b) depending on the draw, they might be doing the butterfly in the same order anyway.

So what's the international feeling on following in a relay? There's often forking, true, but that doesn't mean there's nobody going your way. At the O-Ringen, there has been at least one case where hundreds(!) of runners overran a control by thousands(!) of meters, because everyone assumed that the guy in front was looking at his map, when in fact nobody was. When everyone is starting at once, does the ethic on following change?

I will say that the Billygoat sure does work out fine, and there's no problem with following (mass start, following is permitted). As to when and where it's going to be in 2005, please stand by. We were almost at the point where we were ready to announce it, but then ran into some park permission problems, and are deciding whether we think we can work them out, or if we should swicth to one of our backup plans.
Dec 29, 2004 9:57 PM # 
I am not saying that the rule is missing just as the article pinpoints it is not enforced because maybe the way the rule is worded out and the fact that is hard to prove unless someone disqulifies him/herself by oficialy admiting to it.It has not been a major issue over the years, so nobody realy wanted to do anything about it I presume, but as we all know they were athletes that won medals or place in the top 3 by following somone that caught them from a later starting time and run toghether with or just follow.The fact is that manny results are different of what they would have been if people would run all by themself the whole course.The solution to this problem is to permit following in the mass start races and find a way start people in a way that following will not benefit anybody.I do not have a solution at this time but I might come up with something in the future.Than is the problem of running toghether that even if the problem of following would be resolved in way that the follower will not be able to benefit or to follow, well running toghether might still benefit the guy followed and might help him jump positions in the final results against the people running alone the whole way.So running toghether will definetaly help at least one person, in the case of Lakanen brothers it looks like might have benefit them both in the race mentioned in "O" online.I am not sure if will ever have a solution to this problem but as fair orienteering and orienteers are generaly, the results are not numerous times and as the article is emphasizing it does not look like anybody is bothered by it.A good example is the walking competitor who is disqualified on the last K in a major race of 50 K because he ran a few steps.Months of hard training gone!
Dec 29, 2004 10:01 PM # 
And making someone to draw their route, would not help, unless someone can prove that the route drawn is not actualy corect.Way to manny complications with this rule.
Dec 30, 2004 1:32 AM # 
Regarding drawing one's route, I'm reminded of the time quite a few years ago at a course review, I think at west point, when a foreign blue course runner gave his eagerly anticipated review, which went something like this: "on leg 1, I went straight. On the next leg . . . straight. then on leg 3 . . . I went straight. Straight on leg 4. On leg 5 . . . " You get the idea.
Dec 30, 2004 9:53 PM # 
For the mathematically inclined Nature 413 217 (2001)
The thing I found about following and running in packs, which is surprising to most orienteers, is that it usually helps both parties. Of course the follower gets a big gain, but if you look at the splits the person "being followed" also goes quicker. One can speculate as to the reasons, but the "follower" always entered the event assuming they could do it unaided, so is likely to be pretty competent.

Butterflies are a nice idea, but I haven't seen much evidence that they actually work at elite level (+ the ones I've seen have been too short). Best way to break pairs up might be to stop the caught runner for a minute if two arrived at a control together.

In relays, following is definitely part of the game.


PS. Not DQ'ed, but the winner of the UK team trial was once not selected for WOC after he caught and ran the course with another, perceived stronger, runner.
Dec 30, 2004 10:37 PM # 
My personal pet peeve is below:

37.8 Competitors shall not drink from water jugs in such a way that they contaminate the water others must use, and they shall not waste the water. Each competitor shall avoid using more than 8oz of water at any one refreshment control unless they need additional water to drink.

I have repeatedly seen most orienteers drinking directly from the jug so much so that I will now often spend time to open a new jug to be assured of sanitary conditions. I have also told many people not to directly drink from the jug and been told to stuff it. Many of these offenders will claim, "I don't touch my mouth to the jug". Well I have seen people who said this to me do just that. I don't expect any sympathy from anyone because I am clearly in the minority. I can't count the number of times I have gotten to a water control and have to open the cups eventhough one or jugs of water is already gone. I am mainly concerned about sanitary issues but of lesser importance to me is that i also loose time at the water controls.

My recommendations: Change the rule to say you must drink water from a cup at water stops. This will make it clear what is acceptable.

Dec 30, 2004 11:19 PM # 
At serious (and also at large) events, there's somebody pouring the water into cups for the competitors, thus solving both the time and the sanitary issues. (I've had this job at a World Cup, and I've drunk from poured cups at the O-Ringen.) If this is considered an issue of consequence, then making a rule isn't going to fix the problem -- if somebody drinks out of the jug anyway, then... what? But we don't have enough people to staff water stops in these parts, particularly at local meets.

Also note: don't kiss Ted!
Jan 6, 2005 2:41 AM # 
If a non-competitive runner decided to punch out-of-order, I wouldn't really care. For some people, it's more about fun and less about winning. But they should stick to non-competitive classes.

I would be sad to see someone in a competitive class cheat. I have never not finished an orienteering race. I came close once - at a CSU park-o I punched a beginner's control without realizing it. Dean Sturtevant pointed this out to me after the race, and I picked up all the controls starting with the one I missed so I would still finish properly.

This might sound a bit demostrative, but I'd rather spend however long it takes to get it rigth than be DQ'd or knowing that I haven't done the same course as my competitors.

This also goes to show though that we all make *inadvertent* mistakes. (I still don't check every single control code, although I try to.) E-punching does not just make it impossible to cheat on the punching order, it also points out mistakes that might otherwise slip through. (I must admit - I've never done any control-card checking, so I don't know how seriously that task is usually taken.)

As for following - I always hate running into people in the woods, especially people that I know are better orenteerers than me. I hate this because I know that no matter how much I try to focus on my own map, I will be impossible for me to pretend they aren't there.

At Telemark this year, I was passed by Sergei on my way to #4. His running speed was just a little bit faster than mine, and so was not too far behind him on the way to #5. We both went too far to the right, and relocated at the road junction not too far away. How did we get lost? Probably both by paying too much attention to each other and not enough on where we were going. Did I follow him? I must admit - I have never paid too much attention to the no-follow rule, because I rarely run with people of the same speed. Now in retrospect, maybe I did. Maybe I should have checked my map more carefully, avoided the minor error and beat him to #5. :)

Back to Day 1 at Kent - Alexei and I ran together for at least a couple of the later legs if I recall correctly. We were both orienteering, not risking to rely on the other. In some spots I consciously went higher or lower while traversing, hoping to gain an advantage. I definitely think we both gained on our splits from this - we were pushing each other.

But apart from my 15 minute first split Alexei beat me by an additional 11 minutes. So maybe I gained more than Alexei? I distincly remember that I was navigating, so I was definitely not following. But if I had a good day and managed to stay with a generally stronger runner, I don't doubt that it could be perceived that way.

I guess my points on following are:

1) The extent to which you follow someone is variable - there's a continuous scale of the extent to which you pay attention to the runners you encounter in the forest.

2) Unless you can clearly tell that someone is not looking at their map, I think it would be hard to *prove* that someone is following.

So I think the only realistic options are:

A) Allow following. I don't like this option.

B) Everybody does their best not to follow. It think this also involves telling someone not to follow if you believe that's what they are doing. It relies on honesty. And I think it would be hard to catch someone who's being dishonest about it.

This discussion thread is closed.