By David Heim
Innocent until proven guilty right? That might be the way the United States legal system works, but LetsRun.com is trying to speed up that whole process.
Three months ago, Mike Rossi, 47, was accused of potentially cheating during a Boston Marathon qualifying time he posted at the Via Marathon in September 2014 in Allentown, PA. He became famous after writing a letter to his children’s principal asking for an unexcused absence so they can watch their dad run in the Boston Marathon. But Rossi’s story might be about to blow up even more.
It turns out that the time Rossi posted at Via was not consistent with his other race results on his Athlinks profile. Additionally, Rossi did not appear in any photos along the race route, with the exception of a few taken by the finish line. The accusation? Did Rossi cut the race route?
Whether or not Rossi did in fact cheat in the race remains to be seen and evidence to the contrary hasn’t been provided yet, but LetsRun.com, along with one of its co-founders Robert Johnson, are vying hard to get the truth, and are willing to pay for it.
The running website published a detailed article on Friday further calling into question Rossi’s results. But the site didn’t stop there. In fact, they made Rossi an offer. Simply enough, if Rossi can match his Via time of 3:11:45 within the next year, LetsRun.com will pay him $100,000.
If he cant?
If Rossi fails to match or beat his time from the Via Maration, LetsRun.com will still compensate him. Rossi could still earn $10,000 if he runs 3:25 over the next year or if he breaks 70:00 for 10 miles or 20:00 for a 5K by the end of 2015 – all on a certified course that is.
“I’m so confident that the logic behind this article is correct that I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is,” Johnson told Runner’s World Newswire.
But why is Johnson going to these extremes?
“I think the recreational runner relates to this story,” Johnson said. “The sport suffers from a lot of integrity issues, and normally they’re doping issues. But I think for the average runner, this strikes a nerve. When someone is doing it just for a Boston qualifier, it really upsets people.”
Rossi is standing by his time, and in a recent email to Newswire, said, “the latest ‘article’… contains nothing new and features the same unfounded accusations and inaccurate analysis of the evidence that launched the original investigation. These allegations against me were fully investigated by the Via Marathon who found no evidence of any wrongdoing on my part.”
Rossi went on to say that those allegations are coming from “anonymous posters on a notoriously biased and sensationalist website.”
The entire story has a bit of a snag in it, because why wouldn’t it?
Rossi is currently rehabbing a torn gluteus medius tendon he suffered just prior to the Boston Marathon back in April.
“As I continue my rehabilitation, I hope to increase my running, and I look forward to one day running at my pre-injury level,” Rossi wrote. “I believe I will have no problem posting similar times.”
Rossi has yet to formally accept Johnson’s offer, and according to Johnson, Rossi has yet to reach out to him either.
It’s simple what each side wants. Rossi, on one hand, wants his credibility to be justified – the cash if he does match his time would be a nice added bonus. On the other hand, Johnson wants Rossi to admit his accused guilt.
“My dream solution would be for him to admit that he cut the course,” Johnson said. “I think it would be admirable for him to admit his shortcoming in public.” For that admission, Johnson is willing to contribute $1,000 to the charity of Rossi’s choice.
As previously mentioned, the only evidence of Rossi at Via are a few photos of him at the finish line. In the LetsRun.com article, Johnson said he wants more evidence in Rossi’s races to prove he actually ran them; evidence like additional photos from places on the course. If Rossi presents this information, Johnson will pay him $500.
It seems like Johnson has a lot of money to spend on proving Mike Rossi cheated.
[h/t: Runner’s World]
David Heim is a fan of the New England Patriots and New York Yankees. He’s also a contributor to CBS Local Sports and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @davidheim12.