We have another Rosie Ruiz controversy of someone who took credit for winning a major marathon only to be accused of skipping much of the race. Kendall Schler celebrated her victory at the St. Louis Marathon on April 12th only to have her title taken away after marathon officials discovered that she cheated. Officials say that they believe that she slipped onto the course after the last checkpoint — a conclusion reinforced by the fact that Schler did not register any times on the route. It is interesting that there is no threat of a lawsuit either by the race or by Schler, who would presumably sue in defamation if she had indeed run the race.
It is astonishing to see people like Ruiz in 1979 steal the glory from true athletes at such moments. Another example is Kip Litton, a Michigan dentist, who was found to have cheated in a series of races across the US. It is remarkably cruel because you rob real athletes of their crowning achievement.
One report states that Schler insisted that she removed the tracking device from her running “bib” because she did not want a time for the race. However, putting aside that curious desire, the race officials point out that they could find no photographs to confirm that she ran the entire race in either 2014 or 2015.
The new winner in Missouri was Andrea Karl, a graduate student at St. Louis University. She finished about four minutes after Schler’s supposed win with a time of 2 hours, 54 minutes and 28 seconds. While Karl can now collect the $1,500 for winning, she was denied that thrill of the finish line celebration.
Notably, Schler finished in third in last year’s St. Louis Marathon (which allowed her to qualify for this year’s Boston Marathon) but St. Louis officials say that they cannot find evidence that she ran that entire race. She has now been disqualified.
The most obvious litigation would be a lawsuit by Schler, who notably has been silent. This would be a classic case of defamation against the race organizers if the allegation is untrue. It is not simply a claim that suggestion grossly unethical conduct but potentially criminal conduct. Indeed, it is not clear if Schler claimed the $1,500 which could be treated as criminal fraud.
Then there is the race and Karl. If the allegation is true, Schler ruined a critical part of the marathon and forced the race organizers to extend time and money to prove the fraud. Then there is Karl and her injury.
Notably, Ruiz was not charged or sued — at least not for that incident. In 1982, Ruiz was given a week in jail and five years probation for embezzling $60,000 from a real estate company where she worked. In 1983, she was arrested as part of arrests over a cocaine deal. She was sentenced to three years’ probation.
Returning to Schler, the fact that this was a race with a monetary prize would seem to move this beyond simple bragging or some stunt. It seems to me that there should be more of a sanction than simply being disqualified in such a case. Of course, much like Stolen Valor cases, the public backlash over such alleged dishonesty is a significant punishment in itself. Ironically, for those seeking glory, this type of allegation can haunt them for the rest of their lives as it has Ruiz.
What to you think?