Optics, Haptics and a State of Irony

What timing!

(Pun intended.)

Almost as if he knew I was working on this very topic, Mexican politician Roberto Madrazo was disqualified recently from the Berlin Marathon after winning his age group category. No Ruiz he, it is how Madrazo was caught that is of interest to sportsBabel, with the 55-year-old former presidential candidate captured by the machinations of the control society.

Courtesy of AP/Victor Sailer

At first glance, it appears to be a matter of touch:

On Monday, race officials said they had proof that Madrazo had taken a shortcut. An electronic tracking chip in one of his running shoes showed he had skipped two checkpoints and appeared to have run one nine-mile section faster than any human being on record, taking only 21 minutes.

"Not even the world record holder can go that fast," the race director, Mark Milde, told The Associated Press. (The record for 15,000 meters, about 9.3 miles, is 41 minutes 29 seconds, set by Felix Limo of Kenya in November 2001.)

But upon further examination, it might be a matter of vision after all:

But a sports photographer, Victor Sailer, wondered why Madrazo was wearing a jacket, a cap and long tights on a day when most of the runners finished the race in sweat-soaked T-shirts and shorts. Sailer showed his photo to race officials and raised the possibility that Madrazo might have broken the rules.

Touch or vision? Whatever the answer, it appears that for Madrazo, "who used his marathon-running as a metaphor for his determination and steadiness in campaign advertisements," the consequence is poor optics.


9 responses to Optics, Haptics and a State of Irony

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  1. Cody Vandommele says:

    For a government official to cheat in a public sporting event shows the extent to which winning is valued in society. People in society value sport so much that those who excel and display dominant sporting norms such as hard-work, winning, co-operation, and determination received high status and power because society has been socialized to value these traits. What this story also shows is the interconnectedness of sport and politics. Politics and sport are not separate entities, but instead, influence each other constantly. Traits valued in sport are valued in politics as well so there is a transmission of values taking place. Another area that probably doesn’t get as much attention in this story is the computer chip. Using technology to track runners and monitor progress is something relatively new but it shows the lengths the technology has come in sport. Technology allows for more control of athletes in sport which is an invasive thing that could cause positive outcomes or negative.

  2. Jessica Foster says:

    The fact that tracking devices are needed in order to ensure that runners are not cheating is a demonstration of people's values within the sporting context. So much emphasis is placed on winning, which people go to extremes in order to succeed within sport and life. Extremes which are outside of the rules of sport and acceptances of society, yet people are willing to take chances in order to have the title of the best. With the use of technology, such as the tracking device and photography, it was evident that Madrazo cheated during the race. Madrazo contradicted his reasons for taking place in the race (to promote his determination and steadiness in campaigning) by cheating. Madrazo demonstrated betrayal, which would be reflected in his persona as a politician. Therefore, it is evident that the importance of values remains an issue in today's society.

  3. Stephanie Kerr says:

    Why did he cheat? He is seen as someone famous in that country I suppose. He had to have known that there would be a chip tracking his "run" and cameras all around to watch them racing. If going in he was aware of all this and yet he still cheated, you have to ask the question why? The same can be said about those athletes who use illigal substances to cheat. They know they are going to get tested and probably caught, yet they still do it. I believe that Madrazo did not want to be seen as a "looser", it is all about winning. He wanted to win to show the people that he is a "winner", however he probably would have endeared himself more to the people if he came last and not cheated. The future does not seem bright for him, since we are a society that frowns apon those who cheat. Look at baseball, Bonds, Macguire and all the rest have now outcast by both media and society. The same will now probably happen to Madrazo.

  4. Allison Huston says:

    As quoted above Madrazo "who used his marathon-running as a metaphor for his determination and steadiness in campaign advertisements," probably shouldn’t have cheated. If he was planning on using the marathon to make a political statement, then he should have thought it out a little more. He should have known about the chip in his shoe, which I personally think is a great idea for Olympic and marathon running. It really shows how technology is influencing the change in sport. Just a few years ago, the only proof that Madrazo may have cheated would have been by vision - from the photographer and the fact that he was wearing a jacket, hat and not sweating, but now there is the matter of touch. The fact that there is a chip inside the runners shoe and in the ground to know if the runner has crossed the point is so smart. It shows how the development of technology is trying to re-level the playing field in sport after performance enhancing substances have taken over. Even though cheating in running distance and performance enhancing substances are not the same in any sense, the IOC is controlling what they have control over. Even though they test for steroids, and catch the athletes, they do not have control over if the athlete takes the steroids or not, but the IOC has control over this type of cheating.

  5. Kaitlyn Colling says:

    Madrazo said he “used his marathon-running as a metaphor for his determination and steadiness in campaign advertisements”, while all along he knew he was cheating. What does this say about our society and how important winning is? Between sport participants and presidential candidates, it seems that people will always go the distance to win. These people do this though, knowing that they are doing something wrong, even “cheating”, to win. Madrazo consciously knew he was cheating the race and how he assumed never thought he was going to get caught seems unreasonable. How does he look now (after the truth of the race came out) as a political candidate? He had a chip in his running shoe telling them that he was skipping the two checkpoints (which I am sure he was aware of having), and he was not even sweating or acting exhausted after he finished his race. It was almost to say he did a bad job cheating, because he did. The point, though, is that our society has turned people into thinking that winning is all that they need to do when they are in these types of situations. Whether it be doping or actually cutting part of the race, the players/participants know what they are doing is wrong and they know they have the chance of getting caught, but they do it anyways. I do not understand how if you know you risk losing a gold medal over performance enhancing drugs, how participants can get so upset about it when they do get caught. It is like they think that they are going to be the lucky ones to not get caught, when as you can read in the “Seeking the Straight Cope” article and the “Success-Excess-Access” article, these organizations have 8-years to determine if there was doping involved and they are doing everything possible to find out if athletes are involved in obtaining these drugs in the US. Cheating, whether it be doping or just simply skipping some of the race, puts it into perspective how important it is to win and how being the best is so socially structured that it does not surprise me what people are led to do in sports these days.

  6. Ali Hodgins says:

    Cheating will always be prevalent in sport. Especially when it comes to comptetive sport. In a climate such as a race, normally the number one thing going through your mind is winning. It is too often that our societies number one mentality is being better than some one else, or coming in first place. We no longer think of working to the best of our abilities, or improving our personal time in a race. As a western society all we want to do is win. Races like these have all different types of participators, everyone is able to participate. The only bias is based on your skill. The need to win a race like this could be explained using conflict theory. You could say that this man, a government official is clearly of high status in our society. Being outperformed in this race by what we would consider an "average joe" would put his upper level status in jeopardy. If he had gotten away with cheating, his "great" performance would allow him to continue to look down upon those around him of lower status and maintain his higher status.

  7. Siobhan Moran says:

    What I find interesting about this story is that Madrazo is a politician. I love that he was using the marathon “as a metaphor for his determination and steadiness in campaign advertisements”. Most politicians do not get caught in their lies during their campaigning. Unfortunately for Madrazo due to technological advancements in sports as well as a keen photographer he got caught. These tracking chips have made it nearly impossible for cheating to occur in marathons. How did he not realize that the tracking chip would expose him? Also, being in the public eye you would think he would realize that people would be taking pictures of the event. You would think that he would just run the race to the best of his ability and maybe take some more time out of his schedule to do some proper training.

  8. Vanessa Neto says:

    Sport in our society has become paired with politics. Madrazo stated that this marathon was a metaphor for his campaign. Since he cheated in this sporting event no one should trust him as a political leader. Winning in sport means everything in our society, but what is more concerning is how Madrazo was caught. Through advancements in technology we created electronic tracking chips to track the movement of our athletes. In this case it proved that Madrazo cheated, but what is the bigger picture? We as a society and as individual athletes are allowing ourselves to be monitored. When will we draw the line? This may just be the beginning, who is to say that in the next 20 years our children won’t be monitored? With our every move is being watched our free will is somewhat lost.

  9. Jody Gates says:

    It is prevalent that cheating is a part of sport in today’s society. Cheating has been around since the earliest sporting experiences. Today’s modern technology has been able to distinguish between authentic/natural athletes and cheating/unnatural athletes. In this specific situation modern technology, more specifically a tracking chip was able to detect cheating within a marathon. The Mexican politician Roberto Madrazo was disqualified because he was caught running a shorter distance than everyone else in the race. He took a short-cut. First of all, I think that this is horrible considering how he used his “win” as a metaphor for his determination and steadiness in campaign advertisements. I think that it is a very frightening thought that our leaders have been caught as frauds.
    The more interesting part of this story is the technology that was used to detect his cheating. The modern tracking device is placed on the sole of the shoes of all the runners who are a part of the marathon. I find it fascinating why a runner would intentionally cheat in a race that he/she knows is being monitored. I don’t understand. Does he/she think that they can outsmart a valid technological tracking chip? I wonder why an athlete would choose to take the chances. Is winning a race really worth the chances of ruining a reputation? A politician, who is seen as a role model, took the chances that day of ruining his career, his reputation and pride. This is similar to professional athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs. Unfortunately, competitiveness has taken over the minds of these athletes. Hopefully WADA will one day be able to change the mind-set of athletes into believing that cheating is not essential to successfully compete as an athlete.