An issue involving runners crossing an out-of-bounds area in the men’s class at the World Cup Middle distance race in China this weekend has led to a lot of discussions. The jury decided to not disqualify any of the runners crossing the out-of-bounds area, and the International Orienteering Federation has promised to publish the full decision of the jury (this article will be updated with the detailed jury decision).
Update: Jury decision now available here.
While waiting for this document to be published, here is a look at what happened. Below the main problematic area just before control 5 is shown. The fastest route went through this area. This very thin olive-green area is forbidden to cross. However, it is very difficult for the runner to see that this thin area is olive green, as far as I know there is no information about this in Bulletin 4 for the race (Bulletin 4 is not published online, though, so difficult to assess), and in all events I have been involved as a organizer/controller we have always marked such areas where there could be doubt with forbidden area on the map and in addition with tape in the terrain. The jury decision probably explains how much blame the organizer should take here, but based on the jury decision not to disqualify any runners, the organizers must probably take most of the blame.
Looking at the GPS-tracking with official split times for all runners on this leg, you can see that (1) Several runners run through the out-of-bounds area, even the two fastest times are run by athletes running through the out-of-bounds area and (2) a lot of runners run the routechoice to the right, but then run either to the left or the right of the out-of-bounds area. Some even run into the area and out again.
Looking further, here are the runners taking this routechoice (again with official split times):
And the runners going through the out-of-bounds (note that the GPS-tracking is inaccurate, so there may be errors here; split times are however all correct to the second). Update: According to unofficial information posted on Facebook by the Senior Event Advisor there were 8 runners going through, so one is missing here.
Finally we look at the two runners who earned most time by going through the out-of-bounds area (red; Fosser and Hubmann also had the two fastest split times on the leg) and the other runners who were “closest to the action”, i.e. took the same general routechoice, but went around to avoid going through the forbidden area.
Some ran all the way to the forbidden area, backed out again and run around (e.g. Kral, Nykodym, Howald), while others avoided the forbidden area by running around on either sides. What is very clear here is that several runners earned time by going through the out-of-bounds area – but the time losses by others who avoided the forbidden area is an even bigger problem. Milos Nykodym would for example have jumped from 11th place to 6th place (see results without the leg below) without the leg.
Note, however, that removing a leg from the results like this is not an option according to the competition rules. Also, runners who experience big timelosses like this due to a mistake often have problems performing at the same level after a mistake.
Here are results without leg 4-5 (official total results in the rightmost column):
|4.||Max Peter Bejmer||Sweden||37:16||(+1:57)||Total:
|6.||Milos Nykodym||Czech Republic||37:37||(+2:18)||Total:
In summary, the jury has decided that it cannot disqualify the runners going through the out-of-bounds area (the reason why will be published soon). However, the jury still thinks that the overall result with these runners included in the results is fair enough for a World Cup race, even if it has involved time gains and time losses of from 30 seconds to 2 minutes for many runners involved in the Top 10 in the competition.
It would have been very interesting if we had the exact same time losses/gains involved, but with Daniel Hubmann on top of the results and Milos Nykodym in 4th (but close enough to win without the time loss involved due to the out-of-bounds area). Would the decision still have been the same? Or would the jury then have chosen to void the race? Or disqualified the runners?
Before reading the jury decision (which may contain information not available to the public yet), my opinion would be that either you find that the runners going through the out-of-bounds area must be disqualified, or you have to void the race. Both decisions can be fine depending on the facts. But I can’t see any set of facts which makes the solution chosen here the correct and fair solution, except if you say that “this does not influence the results” and define the results as Top 3 only. But let’s wait for the jury and see if that changes anything.
Update 1: According to unofficial information posted on Facebook by the IOF Senior Event Advisor, the jury reinstated the 8 runners on the grounds that the forbidden area was below the ISOM minimum symbol width. That means that DSQ is not an options…
Update 2: Jury decision is now available here. As I read the jury decision, the conclusion is that based on the map, the terrain and the knowledge of the runners it was not possible to find a fully fair way to handle this through disqualification (i.e. not fair to disqualify). Also, the runners did not earn more than 30 seconds on it. They did not look at/discuss how much some runners lost due to (trying to) follow the rules, though. The reason for not voiding the race seems to be mostly that the medals were not influenced. Note that the extra protest against Gustav Bergman also complicated the issue.
PS! Note that there are also discussions due to athletes running through an out-of-bounds area towards the end of the course, complicating the issues further.
PPS! Note that the athletes themselves accepted being disqualified as a “fair decision” as they gained time there (see e.g. Daniel Hubmann’s comment on Instagram below), but were still frustrated.