According to a survey of myself and a cat I found, if there is something to be won, there is someone willing to cheat to win it. And that leaves a lot of room for weirdness. The world is full of competitions, and it's also full of insane people. And when these two things collide, you get cheating controversies of bizarre proportions.
I'm no expert in fishing competitions (it seems like the outcome is largely up to the fish?), but it's no surprise that where there's big prize money, there's cheating involved. I imagine doctored lures and, uh, fish-summoning whistles? You know, subtle things to give you an edge. Or if you're Matthew Clarke in 2013, you win the Bailiwick Bass Club Open with a 13 lb, 13 oz bass which you stole from a goddamned local aquarium.
Wait, the story gets stupider. The guy was only caught when someone recognized the f*****g fish. See, another competitor had been to the same aquarium two weeks prior to the competition and had seen the fish when he was there. He recognized the markings on it and outed Clarke as a dirty fraud.
Clarke was actually an employee at the aquarium, which allowed him to sneak the fish away when no one was looking. He planned to return it alive, but accidentally dropped it during his heist, because have you ever tried to hold a fish that didn't want to be held? Also known as every fish ever?
The judges didn't take any action when they were told, because who would ever believe someone recognized a fish? But the next day, the aquarium confirmed the fish was missing, and eventually Clarke was charged with fish theft and fish fraud.
Bridge is a card game for four players, and that's literally where my brain refused to read any more of the Wikipedia page. But it's super serious business for a lot of people. Millions of dollars' worth of serious, in fact. And this has led to a series of elaborate cheating schemes, none of which seem to involve players simply stuffing cards up their sleeves, and at least one of which involved performance-enhancing drugs. Sort of.
Early 2019 delighted the world with news of the world's #1 Bridge player, Geir Helgemo, being suspended after getting caught doping. Of course, if you read a little deeper, you'll see that Helgemo was using two drugs to increase his testosterone, which increases your Bridge skills in ... no way whatsoever? Maybe his strategy involved intimidating other players with his sudden influx of chest hair?
The World Bridge Federation acknowledged that the drugs weren't performance-enhancing in any way they're familiar with, but because they abide by World Anti-Doping Association guidelines, the substances were still banned. Except why does the World Bridge Federation need to observe the World Anti-Doping Association Guidelines in the first place? What substances do make you better at bridge?
Not that Bridge cheating isn't a thing. There was a trial in 1982 for two players who were caught sending coded messages to one another (and making the equivalent of $20,000 a night doing it). More than 30 years later, a pair of German champs were caught doing the same thing, sending messages to each other through a series of coughs and throat clearings. And some Italian players were caught tapping their feet under the table to signal each other. In fact, if you're a fan of Bridge true crime, here's a great article about Bridge's most nefarious cheats -- something that I almost guarantee you didn't know was a thing before today. You're welcome!
For most of us, cheating at Scrabble involves trying to get a triple word score off of adding an "S" to "moose." But when you play big league Scrabble, you learn a couple of things. The first is that there is big league Scrabble. The second is that cheating takes a skilled hand. And the third is that former Scrabble champion Allan Simmons may have hands, but they're not super skilled.
Simmons, a man who literally wrote books on Scrabble that aren't just the dictionary, was banned by the Association of British Scrabble Players for three years back in 2017. This wasn't just a case of the ABS being fickle, as you know they are. This was a case of Simmons being caught with his hand in the cookie jar, which is to say the Scrabble bag. He was palming tiles, shooting quick looks at them, and dropping them back in the bag to get better tiles. Dude probably never had to play that useless-as-s**t "J" in his life. Honestly, name one word with a "J" in it. Just try.
Such wily legerdemain could probably be pulled off by a good pickpocket or a skilled magician. Scrabble champ Allan Simmons was neither, and three different witnesses saw him do it. He may as well have just tried to put some alphabet spaghetti on the board with such clumsy work. For his part, Simmons denied any cheating, and used the old "Games can be quite intense and there's a lot going through one's mind, let alone remembering to religiously ensure tile drawing rules are followed meticulously" defense. Man, if I had a nickel.
The Iditarod is a famous, grueling sled dog competition, but the winner of the 2018 race got over $50,000, so it's probably worth it if you can convince your dogs they'll get a cut. It also maybe makes sense that someone would cheat by doping their dogs. If human runners perform better on drugs, surely dogs do as well. Yep, makes sense. Unlike this story.
Four-time champion Dallas Seavey was accused of cheating in 2017. His dogs failed a drug test after he placed second, and an investigation ensued, with Seavey asserting his innocence. So far, so predictable. But here's the thing: The dogs tested positive for Tramadol, which is a sedative painkiller. It'd be like a marathon runner trying to get an edge by chugging Valium and a turkey dinner before the race.
After a lengthy investigation, Seavey was cleared of any wrongdoing. From the beginning, veterinarians were confused about the case, because only a total clod would try to make their dogs sleepier. What became clear over the course of the investigation was that the dogs were doped, but not by Seavey. Someone was apparently trying to ruin his chances, and the levels of the drug in their bodies suggested they had received a dose right before they were tested -- someone wanted it to be discovered.
No one knows who did it, and we possibly never will. We just have to live with the terrifying reality that somewhere out there, lurking in the shadows, is someone waiting to make our dogs really sleepy. Hey, speaking of which ...
If you've ever watched the Westminster Dog Show or other kinds of animal shows, you've seen adorable pups prancing about a ring. But there's an underbelly to all of this, and not the cute kind of underbelly that's just begging to be scratched.
You might wonder how you'd cheat at a show in which there's no athleticism involved and your animal is judged solely on its looks. Well, dog owners will use dyes on off-color patches of fur, and also hairspray to give their dog's coif a little boost. If a dog has uneven testicles, owners will implant fake ones to balance things out. Never in my life have I ever dissed a pet because its f*****g balls were uneven, but that's probably why I'm not currently judging one of these things.
But dog shows aren't the only kind of "Let's score how well these animals exist" competition, and all of them appear to involve shenanigans. When cows are shown, some shady people actually inflate their udders with air to plump them up and make them look less depressed, I guess. Unfortunately, a cow's udder isn't meant to be pumped full of air, so the farmers also have to superglue their teats shut.
And if you think that's extreme, consider the camel beauty contest in Saudi Arabia where 12 camels were disqualified in 2018 because their handlers had Botoxed them in an effort to make them better-looking. Some context: These contests generate some $57 million in prizes. So if anything, it's surprising that people aren't in underground labs somewhere trying to grow genetically perfect camels in vats.
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Movies are never more unrealistic than when they're showing us exactly what a dollar can buy.