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Xavier Thévenard’s 2018 Hardrock 100 Disqualification

Xavier Thévenard at Grouse Gulch, mile 58, of the 2018 Hardrock 100. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

On early Saturday, July 21, 2018, during the 2018 Hardrock 100, the run organization announced the disqualification of participant Xavier Thévenard via its website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed. Here is the announcement:

“We were made aware that runner Xavier Thévenard was given aid outside of an aid station. After careful consideration, investigation of the facts, and conversations with the affected parties, it was confirmed that Xavier was met at a roadside two miles outside of Ouray and given ice and water. The decision has regrettably been made to disqualify Xavier from this year’s Hardrock. Our rules protect the integrity of Hardrock and the values of fairness and sportsmanship for all participants. While the violation was clear and substantive, we do not feel it was made with malicious intent, and invite Xavier to join the lottery for future Hardrocks.”

The purpose of this article is to elaborate on this story via a fact timeline and interviews with the three main participants in this incident, the Hardrock 100 race director Dale Garland, Thévenard, and the witness who reported seeing Thévenard violate the event’s rules, Tony Russ.

Timeline of Xavier Thévenard’s 2018 Hardrock 100 Disqualification

  • Friday, July 20, 2:47 p.m. — The race organization’s timing volunteers record that Thévenard arrives to the Ouray aid station, mile 43.9 and his stay as two minutes in aid. iRunFar field team reports the same.
  • Friday, between 2:49 p.m. and 5:13 p.m. — Thévenard travels the 8.9 miles and 4,000-plus thousand feet of climb between the Ouray and Engineer aid stations. [Editor’s/Runner’s Note: Bryon Powell, here. As someone who also ran the race this year (albeit it a few hours behind Xavier through the relevant section), I hope I can provide some neutral context based on my own water use between the Ouray and Engineer aid stations. Throughout Hardrock, I routinely ‘dip’ from natural water sources along the course. There is one natural water source between Ouray and the Bear Creek Trail (BCT) overpass, the Uncompaghre River about 2.4 miles after the Ouray aid station, or roughly half a mile before and 300 feet below the overpass. However, this is one if not the only flowing water source on the course that I won’t dip from due to its relatively low elevation (and the inherent risk from animal-feces runoff) and acid mine waste (the river was literally half yellow when I passed it). This year, the low snowpack and early snowmelt meant that all the small springs and creeks above the BCT switchbacks were completely dry. The first ‘drinkable’ water source I encountered was 5.5 miles after the Ouray aid station at the first crossing of Bear Creek. This is 2,400 net feet above the Ouray aid station, with a higher cumulative gain due to the undulating trail along the Uncompaghre. It took me one hour and 40 minutes to reach the creek. It was a warm afternoon and I and others I encountered were out well before this water source. There were plentiful water sources between the first Bear Creek crossing and the Engineer aid station.]
  • Friday, after 2:49 p.m. — Bystander Tony Russ witnesses and documents Thévenard and his pacer standing at the back of the open trunk of their crew car in the parking lot at of the Bear Creek Trailhead, mile 46.6. Russ tells iRunFar after the event that he witnessed Thévenard drink water and his crew do something with Thévenard’s pack, and that the incident lasted for three to four minutes. After the event, iRunFar reviews the photos Russ took, which corroborate his witness account. Russ reports what he observed to Garland at the Ouray aid station. After the event, the race organization reported to iRunFar that they began their investigation at this point.
  • Friday, 5:13 p.m. — The race organization’s timing volunteers record that Thévenard arrives to the Engineer aid station, mile 51.8, and his stay as two minutes in aid.
  • Friday, 6:33 p.m. — The race organization’s timing volunteers record that Thévenard arrives to the Grouse Gulch aid station, mile 58.4, and his stay as seven minutes in aid. iRunFar field team reports his stay as 8 minutes. The race organization reported after the event to iRunFar that they spoke with Thévenard’s crew for the first time at this aid station as part of their investigation. iRunFar did not witness this interaction.
  • Friday, after 6:33 p.m. — The race organization reported after the event to iRunFar that they were recontacted by Thévenard’s crew, who wished to update their answers to questions asked of them by the race organization.
  • Friday, 10:02 p.m. — The race organization’s timing volunteers record that Thévenard arrives to the Sherman aid station, mile 71.9, and his stay as six minutes in aid. iRunFar field team reports the same. The race organization reported after the event to iRunFar that they spoke with Thévenard here, asking him one question. iRunFar witnesses this interaction, which was brief and involved a written question asked of both Thévenard and his pacer in French.
  • Saturday, July 21, 3:24 a.m. — The race organization’s timing volunteers record that Thévenard arrives to the Cunningham Gulch aid station, mile 91.2. iRunFar field team reports the same. The race organization reported after the event to iRunFar that: they spoke with both Thévenard and his crew for 15 to 20 minutes; that Thévenard and his crew answered in the affirmative when asked a series of questions about if outside aid was provided at the location reported and if they had read and understood the rules of the race listed in the Runner’s Manual; and that they told Thévenard he was disqualified and he had the option of finishing the course as an unranked runner, but that Thévenard opted to leave Cunningham Gulch in his crew’s car. iRunFar witnessed that this meeting from a distance, but did not hear what was discussed in it.
  • Saturday, before 4:23 a.m. — The race organization posts notice of its disqualification of Thévenard to its website and social-media feeds.
  • Saturday, 4:23 a.m. — iRunFar receives a phone call from the organization confirming Thévenard’s disqualification.
  • Saturday, 6:25 a.m. — Thévenard makes a public statement on in Facebook page where he admits he took outside aid from his crew at the Bear Creek Trailhead, but that he disagrees with the severity of the penalty he received for it.
  • Sunday, July 22, about 10 a.m. — iRunFar interviews Thévenard. The transcript of the interview is shown below.
  • Sunday, July 22, about 1:30 p.m. — iRunFar interviews Garland. The transcript of the interview is shown below.
  • Sunday, July 22, about 3:45 p.m. — iRunFar interviews Russ. The transcript of the interview is shown below.

Interview with Hardrock 100 Race Director Dale Garland

iRunFar: Xavier [Thévenard] was officially disqualified at the Cunningham Gulch aid station[, mile 91.2]? Is that where it was made official?

Dale Garland: Well, he was presented two choices at Cunningham. He was presented with the choice to drop out and be treated as a dropout at Cunningham or to continue onto Silverton as an unofficial finisher if he wanted to finish the 100 miles.

iRunFar: [The organization] disqualified him there, saying, ‘You’re no longer a part of the race. You can’t go to the finish and contest it?’’

Garland: Correct.

iRunFar: He was disqualified for taking aid at the Bear Creek Trailhead[, at mile 46.6]?

Garland: If anybody looks at our updated Runner’s Manual, if you look on our Executive Rule Summary, it’s Rule Number 5, which is that runners won’t stash supplies along the course or receive aid outside of 400-foot area around an aid station.

iRunFar: You were made aware of [Thévenard’s possible rules violation] by a bystander?

Garland: I was made aware of it by a spectator who from my gathering of information was innocently taking pictures and following Xavier as he went up the Bear Creek Trail.

iRunFar: Being a fan?

Garland: Yes, being a fan, and in his picture taking he came upon Xavier and his pacer taking aid from a crew car at the Bear Creek Trailhead.

iRunFar: And they photographed it?…

Garland: He did… After that, he shared that with several people, friends primarily or acquaintances. He didn’t come directly to us. It was based upon the recommendations of his friends in the running community that he presented that to us.

iRunFar: So he explained what he saw and showed you the photo, and it was clear that this was not in the rules?

Garland: Correct.

iRunFar: So discussion was begun among the organization then?

Garland: Correct. Every year we’ve formed an infractions committee to handle any kinds of protests or infractions that are brought to our intention. It’s not the purpose to go out and look for things, but should something happen, we want to have a system in place to deal with it.

iRunFar: You brought [the report] to the committee and there was a period of discussion about it?

Garland: Correct. I think there are two things that maybe have a bearing on what some people perceive as the timing of things. One was was catching up with Xavier and his crew at a point they could talk. The other point was, in conjunction with that, finding an interpreter who could speak French so that we understood each other. Finding this in Silverton on a Friday afternoon was pretty tough.

iRunFar: The rumor is that [the organization] approached Thévenard’s crew for the first time at Grouse [Gulch aid station, mile 57.4] and then approached him at Sherman [aid station, mile 71.9]?

Garland: Yes, we sought clarification because we knew that the next place his crew could be was at Grouse. By the time we contacted his crew and asked that they stay and arranged for a translator and everything, he had already taken off [from Grouse, and] the next place we could actually engage him was at Sherman. Those were places where we could not only engage him using our Ham radio system, but also that we could have a French translator.

iRunFar: So it was basically, ‘We have received this report. What do you have to say?’

Garland: Yes, and we asked four simple questions of his crew. We asked him one simple question trying not to lead or corner or trap him or them. After that, we gathered that information and took it back to Silverton where we were recontacted by his crew stating they were uncomfortable with some of their answers and wanted to revisit some of their answers… We formed the committee again and in that process determined that asking him… with the gravity of the potential situation, we decided it was better if we asked him more than one simple forward question to get his side of the story. That’s when, again, trying to find a translator…

iRunFar: So [the organization] gathers information in a couple different locations. You make a cursory decision or…

Garland: We made a cursory decision before we went into Cunningham. The decision was [going to be] based on what we heard from him at Cunningham.

iRunFar: You had a conversation that lasted several minutes with him at Cunningham.

Garland: Fifteen to 20 minutes with a French translator. By then, the conversation and the answers to the questions had changed dramatically on behalf of both him and his crew.

iRunFar: He ultimately said [that he took the aid and that he understood the rules]? He posted afterward on Facebook and then what he said to iRunFar [on Sunday after the event] was that he agrees that he did take aid and he violated the rules, but he also says he thinks the punishment was crueler than the violation.

Garland: Correct.

iRunFar: I am wondering what you and the rules committee thought about [that statement of Xavier’s]?

Garland: Yes, that’s a topic of discussion, and to be honest, we’ve never had to deal with this.

iRunFar: Are these the first two disqualifications ever?

Garland: Yes, we had no template or metrics to do that, so we really had to come up with what we thought was an appropriate penalty. We did talk about a time penalty, but without any kind of a template or understanding of what that might look like, it seemed to us it would be a very contrived amount of time without deliberation and without looking at other models. So then a lot of people said, ‘Well, then why did you feel a need to take such an action…’ But we felt it was in the best interest of our event and the best interest of Xavier to not have this play out at the finish line.

iRunFar: The hard decision you had to make with Xavier and the additional one [about Dima Feinhaus’ disqualification]… I hear people saying, ‘In the past Hardrock might have been a little more lenient or open… Unintentional muling by pacers, like somebody carrying a water bottle for awhile.’ Is this…

Dale Garland: Is this the new Hardrock? No. In the case of Xavier, we were presented with evidence that we decided we had to do something… Both of those situations were lose-lose situations. In the case of [Dima], it was reported that somebody went off course. We went over that it was a closed course and if you go off course, there are consequences. In my understanding… these are pretty accepted norms that you only accept aid at aid stations, and if you go off course, you return to the point where you left the course. In that sense, I don’t think we’re really breaking much new ground here. We’re just abiding by what we have stated publicly in our runners’ manuals.

Interview with Xavier Thévenard

iRunFar: How do you feel about the choice of the race [organization] to disqualify you?

Xavier Thévenard: I don’t think that [the decision] was appropriate for what we did, it was only a sip of water, it feels disproportionate in comparison. We should really mention that there was a woman sharing sweets on the first summit [after the KT aid station, mile 11.5]. You could just open your hand and she’d give you some, it was considered outside the zone. Today, how many runners grabbed small things outside aid stations? You’d need to put judges everywhere and it doesn’t make sense… In all European rules, it’s one hour maximum [penalty] but you don’t disqualify someone after 145 kilometers… I wonder what the organizers would have done if we had gone through Cunningham without going through the aid station. Would they have disqualified me?… I think that they lose a bit of credibility with everything, this disqualification is disproportionate for a sip of water. We had just ran 145k and 21 hours. We are three hours ahead of Jeff [Browning]. I think that [Jeff] feels uncomfortable about all this. Everyone feels uncomfortable.

iRunFar: Where did you exactly receive aid? What was the aid that you received for being disqualified? Was it at the Bear Creek Trailhead? And what happened there?

Thévenard: After Ouray, after the tunnel, yes it is giving aid but we have to mention that there were people after Ouray that sprayed water on me as well. It was not considered external aid but it could also well be. We have to put things back in context, and sometimes it just doesn’t make sense. The disqualification is too harsh in my opinion. Yes I did take water 2k after Ouray, but someone, that I didn’t know, sprayed water on me beforehand [between the aid and where the incident happened].

iRunFar: Was it your crew [at Bear Creek Trailhead who aided you]?

Thévenard: Yes, but it wasn’t planned. We didn’t even think about it. I didn’t even think about doing something bad. I had too many things to manage with the pain, it didn’t cross my mind one second. For me, I wasn’t cheating, I wasn’t thinking about the fact that they could disqualify me for this. It’s unreal. I could have taken water from the river and it would have been the same. I did something that wasn’t in the rules. I didn’t even think about the fact that I was outside the zone, I didn’t want to cheat, it wasn’t intentional, it was on the moment but the disqualification is too strong after so much investment. It’s not even clear. If they had told me that they’d add an hour to my time, it would have been okay to me.

iRunFar: Do you think that you’ll ever try to come back to Hardrock?

Thévenard: I am a little disgusted… With the amount of investment that I gave.. This race is great. It’s a great 100 miler. The organization is super friendly and relaxed compared to European races. There is a paradox that I don’t understand between the general atmosphere and the penalty that they gave me. I am ahead of the race but I don’t consider that I am a top runner. Mistakes happen to anyone, top runner or not. These are labels that we put on people. I am neither a top runner nor an average runner, we’re here to run and spend some time in the mountains. There are limits that we give to each other but I think that this [the penalty] goes out of context.

iRunFar: I don’t know you too well, but what I have seen is that your spirit, personality, and character seems very close to Hardrock’s spirit.

Thévenard: I think that I will never understand. It’s inhumane, with all the training pain, the project, the race. We’re blocked at 145k and 21 hours! We hurt everywhere. Give me one hour but don’t disqualify me. We didn’t hurt anyone, we have to put things back in context. We didn’t cheat, there was no intention to cheat.

[Editor’s Note: Thank you to Jean-Francois Geiss and Eric Gras for their assistance with translations.]

Interview with Witness Tony Russ

Tony Russ: …I was out there, and [Xavier Thévenard] passes me, and I was like, ‘Yeah, dude, you’re winning Hardrock!’ I just wanted to see what a leader does at a point in the race like that, so I followed him…

iRunFar: This was on the trail up from Ouray as you go up next to the Uncompaghre [River]?

Russ: You go down to the Bear Creek Trailhead above that highway.

iRunFar: Right, you do that weird trail to get up above the highway to Bear Creek.

Russ: Yeah, you do that pull-off of [Highway] 550… I was planning to get out there before anyone else did to walk my dogs… When he passed me I was like, Oh, cool! I’ll just follow him a little bit back up to my car. Then I got up and saw that and I was disappointed and got really quiet and didn’t really say anything… I went to my car and called my friend and went, ‘Check the rule book for me.’ …It just felt wrong when I walked up and saw it. That’s why I took pictures…

iRunFar: Just explain what you saw. You were going behind [Thévenard] on the trail and you came up into the trailhead parking lot?

Russ: It was pretty easy to follow him… So I was keeping my dogs behind him at a respectful distance. That’s why in all the pictures he was a little bit away. Then I just popped up. As soon as I saw the top of the car and saw what was happening, I pulled my phone back out… This seems wrong. I even took those pictures and didn’t get close because everything felt weird to me at that point…

iRunFar: Were they already at the car when you came up into the parking lot, or [was Thévenard and his pacer] walking to the car?

Russ: Yeah, they were already at the back of the car.

iRunFar: And the car was open?

Russ: All I saw was Perrier… The last picture I put on Facebook was him actually drinking the Perrier…

iRunFar: What was your estimate on the amount of time they were standing there with the crew?

Russ: Three to four minutes. I had time to go call my friend. I started a video.

iRunFar: What did you do, disappear from view?

Russ: My car was across the highway, and I went to go put my dogs away.

iRunFar: You actually ended up walking past them and they saw you?

Russ: Yeah, they knew I was back there the whole time. I was talking to my dogs. I was not quiet. I was not sneaking behind them by any means. They knew I was back there. That’s what I told Dale [Garland]… They weren’t sneaky. I think I remember them laughing. They weren’t acting sneaky or malicious or anything…

iRunFar: To review what you saw, by the time you came up to the parking lot, [Thévenard and his pacer] were already at the car. The two women were out of the car and in the back with them?

Russ: Yeah, tending to him, I think, messing with his pack and doing whatever.

iRunFar: They were ‘messing’ with his pack?

Russ: Oh, yeah…

iRunFar: Did he take his pack off?

Russ: It didn’t look like he took his pack off. I only walked by briefly, so I only saw so much. That’s about it… Then I went down to Ouray still pretty much planning to tell people but still not really knowing if I should tell that aid station or if I should just, like, wait and go to the [race headquarters at the Silverton] gym at some point when I come back. I talked to a couple people, and then I saw Jamil [Coury], and I was like… I just need to do whatever he tells me to do.

iRunFar: You told him what you saw, and he said, ‘You need to contact the race?’

Russ: Yeah, I showed him the pictures, and he was like, ‘Yeah, you need to go tell Dale right now.’ …Then I told Dale because he was in Ouray right then… He was like, “Alright, this sucks, but this is why we have a rules committee. We will all talk about it.”

A Call for Civility from the iRunFar Team

We recognize that the confirmed rules breach by Xavier Thévenard and the decision by the Hardrock 100 run organization to disqualify him are contentious in their nature, and we expect that comments about it to be contentious, as well. However, we also recognize that through difficult conversations like this we as a community can learn, grow, and help define our identity. So, though we welcome discourse on iRunFar, we do require it to be civil and in adherence with our comment policy. Comments which do not adhere to the comment policy may not be published. Thank you.

Meghan Hicks: is iRunFar.com's Managing Editor and the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running.' The converted road runner finished her first trail ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places.

View Comments (215)

  • Alain, I obviously read a different HR finishers list than you did. XT did not finish? Kind of hard to win when you don't finish the course?

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  • Xavier won the 2018 Hard Rock 100. The rest is all red tape, confusion and politics.
    Congrats to Jeff Browning for second place!

    Happy trails!

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  • Garland: If anybody looks at our updated Runner’s Manual, if you look on our Executive Rule Summary, it’s Rule Number 5, which is that runners won’t stash supplies along the course or receive aid outside of 400-foot area around an aid station

    So i looked at the Runner's Manual and to my surprise it shows that HRH does not have any Rules in place. How did i came to this conclusion ?

    First it clearly stated that their Rules Summary contains only "Guidelines" so its up to the runner to follow his/her best judgement,

    Second the list of 11 points could never be rules, because there can not possibly negative consequence (specific for rules) like disqualification for whining, not enjoying yourself or refusing to kiss the rock;

    Third it clearly say that the course Director has the final say, so he could have decided whatever and was not bound by any "Rules" because they don't exist;

    This means that disqualifying Xavier was not necessary at all and was subjective and arbitrary and completely counter to the spirit of trail running and all it supposed to stand for

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    • It doesn't mention penalties in the summary, but in the rules under section 4.1 it reads:

      "Finally, runners are not allowed to accept aid between aid stations. Any runner who takes aid where they should not may be disqualified. "

      I'm not saying it was fair to DQ him, but it's incorrect to state no rules were in place, unless this was updated after the race...

      Source: http://www.hardrock100.com/files/manuals/HR100-2018-Hardrock-Runners-Manual-Part1.pdf

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      • Dylan, if that was a rule, it would clearly state what happens if you violate it. This "guideline information" only says that the runner *may* be disqualified if they receive aid outside the designated area. The race director had as much freedom to come up with a reasonable punishment as they wanted, they weren't constrained by rules. Yet they chose the harshest sanction. Why? And the answer that they were lazy or scared to think through a proportional punishment (relegation/penalty) is hardly a valid reason.

        Also, I would like to see a statement from the HR organisers that prevents this kind of disproportional treatment in the future - preparing revision of rules, handbook with clear sanctions, etc. Yet there is nothing to this effect on the entire internet. It really contradicts the stated sentiment that the organisers were unhappy about the whole situation. They would try to do something about it if they were indeed sorry. To top it off, they invited Xavier to enter the lottery for the next edition! Are they making fun of him? The lottery where veterans, aka friends & buddies, get an entry to hike the loop every year. While this point might seem cheap, it isn't. Look at the odds and the number of reserved places for each category.

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  • Claudio - I do agree regarding the comments that called XT a cheater. He simply screwed up and paid a high price, and using the term"cheater" is uncalled for, and actually an embarrassment for the Hardrock and US ultrarunning community. Hopefully, that sort of name calling can be avoided in the future. Have a great day.

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    • Bud, at the end of this discussion, while I'm happy that I had the opportunity to express my thoughts, at the same time I feel I've learned from you how strong and special should be the community who started and made big this Hardrock 100 thing. It is something bigger than the competition and its rules. Thank you!

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  • Claudio - I think it was my comment you quoted, "it is what it is: you don't like it, then do not enter the lottery, no one will miss you". After reading the various comments since mine, I standby the comment. If you do not like the way Hardrock is run, then don't try to enter it. That makes perfect sense to me. And if you go away, it means the 2000 applicants to the lottery will have a better (minimally better...) chance to get in. That also makes perfect sense to me. I have faith and trust in Dale and the Hardrock organization since I did my first HR back in 2000. I also think that the staff might consider using ten slots to invite competitive, including US and international, elite women and men runners (five each) to increase the competition and interest in Hardrock. Perhaps this has already been considered by the staff. These elite runners would obviously have to have an understanding of the rules and the penalties to avoid more DQs similar to the apparent controversy that happened this year.

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    • Thank you Bud. I get your point, makes sense. Well, ultimately you're conceding that somewhat there is room for improvement, and that is exactly what I'm trying to say. Also, ref. other comments, I would add that calling Thevenard a "cheater" is the fruit of an unfair, black-or-white, brutal and primitive analysis of the facts. We can do better.

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  • See my comment above. One reason it took so long for the DQ because it took them forever to get the translator from Grouse to Cunningham. He really didn’t want to go to Cunningham in the dead of night and leave his family at Grouse where he was working the AS. They needed the translator to complete the investigation.

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  • I find it ironic that many comments are focused on a conspiracy to DQ XT but utterly miss the fact that could not have been DQ'd if he had followed the rules in the first place. Other comments focus on how strict european races are and use that as justification for why XT made his decision to break the rules at Hardrock, citing the "laid back" culture. Help me understand how and why someone who is used to racing with very strict rule enforcement would believe it was okay to break them in the USA?

    XT was also offered to continue on and not receive a placement/official time. He declined. He could have chose to continue, and I'm sure many non "top runners" would have gladly done so. XT clearly didn't care about just finishing as he rejected that option.

    Lastly, someone else posted something to the effect of, had XT known breaking the rules by having his crew provide aid outside of an aid station would have him DQ'd, he never would have done it.

    In my view, XT either didn't bother to understand the rules and inform his crew, or he took a calculated risk that breaking the rules would not significantly impact him. Either way, it's pretty simple. He broke the rules and a penalty was enforced. I'm not aware of any precedent for time penalties for breaking the rules at least in ultras in the USA. In general in almost every ultra, breaking the rules will result in a DQ, no other options.

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    • I am European (from the Dolomites) but I live in the US since 3 years: have raced both in Europe and North America. I wouldn't say European races have strict rules. There are clear rules in Europe but, generally speaking, the main thing is that in Europe the races are organized better. I read here below that "it took forever to find a translator": well, that is bad organization. Imagine if Thevenard had been in trouble, injured, lost... And I'm not saying here all races in the US are like that (I run every year The Rut in Montana, which is a terrific event with great organization). But sometimes when I read things like "if you don't like this race you do not have to enter the lottery, no one will miss you", well, that's not nice: why don't you open your eyes, there is a world out there. Doing the Hardrock every year 10 years in a row is great but... why don't you take a break and go racing in the Alps for once, do something different. And, last but not least, calling Thevenard a "cheater" is just as stupid as is the theory of a conspiracy against his win.

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      • Having volunteered at HR this year, I can say I have not seen a better organized race in U.S. It's on-par with the European races I've done. The absence of a translator for every foreign-language nationality in the field does not reflect poorly on race organization, that's simple not a contingency they should have to plan for. When I race in Europe, I don't expect them to speak English. Finding a translator for XT was a courtesy, and a necessary part of due-process in this case. Having translators at every corner where you could make a wrong turn or fall and get hurt is a laughable expectation. As you know, most European athletes speak passable English. This was a rare case where a translator was needed to make sure the rules were clearly understood.

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        • Hey, Woodsman, did I write that a translator is needed "at every corner where you could make a wrong turn or fall and get hurt"?!?
          Also, you say that when you race in Europe you do not expect them to speak English. So, tell me please (out of curiosity), where did you go, which race.
          And finally... when it is about volunteers, I can only say "thank you": whatever the result is, it comes from the heart and the passion for this sport. So, thank you Woodsman for having volunteered.
          And please be aware I am not writing here with the aim to be antagonistic (well, at least you find me "laughable"). I am just trying to be constructive and drive the attention of someone to the point that, if you just say "it is what it is: you don't like it, then do not enter the lottery, no one will miss you", eventually you will end up with a sort of a picnic among buddies, instead of an international trail running event.
          this is my opinion

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  • Not too relevant, but I was working Grouse Aid when Xavier came in. He and his pacer looked worried about something, and his crew was hoovering around him outside the tent, kind of hush-hush like. I knew they weren't too worried about Jeff B (over an hour behind at that point). Xavier was holding his right quad as he checked in, I so I assumed it had to do with an injury or something. The interpreter used by HR was also working Grouse Aid and I saw him and someone else talking to Xavier and his crew for a couple of minutes, so I can back that up. Xavier and his pacer then left. Not moving as fast or as certain as I would've expected. Jeff came in an hour later looking incredibly fresh, executed an aid station stop that would make a NASCAR team proud and confidently pounded up through the swichbacks above Grouse under a rainbow. I really thought he had a chance to overtake Xavier (didn't happen obviously). Some time later there was some hush-hush traffic on the HAM radio that we all kind of looked at each other like "what?". Then Silverton started begging Grouse to send the translator to Cunningham. Grouse kept replying his family was with him and it wasn't optimal for him to leave. Eventually they worked something out and the translator left for Cunningham. Lots of suspense.
    Personally, I wish the rule book had allowed for a lessor punishment but it did not. The race committee would've been criticized either way, DQ or not - it's a no-win for them. Feel bad for Jeff too, but his performance earned him the win fair and square. Great guy, and consistent. Over 100 Ultras with only one DNF!

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  • This might be a big opportunity where US ultratrail running can grow on.
    It's not like we didn't have rules before. The problem I see is, that in most cases the rules where never really enforced. But some exceptions come to mind when Hans Dieter Weisshaar (The first runner with 100 x 100 mile races) got a DQ when he threw a banana peel away at Javelina Jundred, I believe.

    Per definition a sport is doing something within a set of rules. We need rules and we need rule enforcement.

    Xavier Thevenard thinks he just got one swig out of a water bottle and the punishment was to harsh. Would have been a time penalty of 1hour per swig enough? How much do the minutes with the crew help. It seems he spend a couple minutes with them? 1 minute with crew at a illegal spot another hour penalty?

    This is not the first time that runners and crew did not the right thing but it is maybe the first time we start talking about it.

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  • Mr Burrell - Thanks for your excellent and easy to understand comments - probably the best of the many in this long thread about the DQ situation.

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  • A few thoughts - - -

    1. Speculation that JT received unequal treatment for any reason, including nationalistic or especially sponsor favoritism, is utterly ridiculous, so please just drop all that. Reading some of the Comments above is like reading that aliens from outer space have secretly taken over the US Government (which unfortunately, I find more believable ;-)

    2. He clearly broke the rules, which you can't do in any sporting event, so for there to be a consequence is completely expected and normal. And it's a tragedy, since he's a great guy and would have easily won regardless. And keep in mind, wherever you go and whatever you do, you follow the laws of wherever you are - not knowing them is no excuse.

    3. While the runner is always ultimately responsible, note that this tragedy is on his crew. Runners focus all their energy on moving forward; the crew should be managing everything else - they really blew it. One also notes the water was given on the longest stretch w/o potable water on the whole course, on the lowest and hottest section, so the aid given was not casual nor inconsequential.

    4. JT's suggestion that a lesser penalty could have been imposed is reasonable. "Relegation" is common in cycling for example; a time penalty is imposed for infractions while a DQ is reserved for intentionally causing harm. And the HR100 Board's assertion that there was no formula or precedent in existence for such a time penalty is also correct and reasonable, so they simply followed the clearly stated rules rather than inventing something on the spot. I presume they will develop more detailed protocols for the future.

    5. A sad situation - sincere condolences to JT - and hearty congratulations to everyone else including Jeff B, and a big thanks to all those who work to make this event possible!

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  • As a five time HR finisher from long ago, I have faith in Dale and the rest of the staff in their decision making process. It was a hard decision, and I am glad I did not have to make it. The rules are clear, and XT screwed up - the issue is was the punishment too severe? I was not there, so I will go with Dale's decision. If XT and anyone else is that upset about the decision, and many apparently are after browsing the comments, you do not have to enter the lottery or show up for the run. No one will miss you, and plenty of other runners will take your place. Have a great evening.

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    • Bud, your name is as straightforward as your take: the guy violated the rule, Dale has complete discretion, and anyone who doesn't like it can vote with their feet -- pardon the pun. I doubt entries will decline one iota, as if any of the hard cores would care...

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      • You guys can also run against each other, a race between buddies

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  • the whole thing is just so very unfortunate. i don’t believe XT meant to violate any rules, but he did unknowingly, and undortunately ignorance is not a waiver from the rules. there is of course also the language barrier and cultural barrier where he’s just going to interprate what happened so very differently. and for this reason, i’m not willing to flat out call him or his crew liars either. when confronted with the questions, i don’t even think they understood what they were being asked, interpretor or not (although good on Dale and the committee to go so far as to seek out an interpretor) was the DQ too harsh of a punishment? perhaps. but that’s what the Hardock committee had in place at the time, never expecting that they’d have to actually enforce an infraction. if they had just arbitrarily come up with a time penalty on the fly, that would have come off as even more hairball and amateur. we’re talking about a race that changes direction every year, a race where lightning storms randomly create time penalties of their own! i am certain that this was not an easy decision for Dale and he committe, but they had no choice. it was just a lose/lose situation from the moment XT met up with his crew in the Bear Creek lot to the moment Tony Russ saw it all. also, correct me if i’m wrong here, but wasn’t the Bear Creek Trail closed to ALL except Hardrock participants and their pacers coming out of Ouray (no crew, spectators or day hikers allowed) due to the recent flooding damage and delicate condition of the trail that Trujillo and other volunteers worked tirelessly to repair so that the race could go on without a massive detour? pretty sure i saw posted signs at the trailhead as well, so wasn’t this Tony Russ guy also in violation? hmmmmm. sounds like nobody was free from wrongdoing here....

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  • As a middle of the pack trail runner (South African who dislikes Altra - so hopefully unbiased) I always make sure I read the rules prior to competing in an event - XT is an Elite sponsored athlete and as such has a duty to his sponsors and team to ensure that he is fully acquainted with the rules (so does the team by the way). Unfortunately if you break the rules you break the rules and therefore must face the penalty. Society has become very tolerant of rule infractions and making thousands of exceptions only complicates things, as such setting a strict precedent can be good thing. It should however be uniformly applied going forward. Thanks iRun Far, for hosting such an interesting discussion.

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  • I'm not sure "he didn't gain any benefit" is a valid argument for a light penalty. Hypothetically, let's say the infraction was littering instead of outside aid. Let's also say (hypothetically) that a runner denied littering but then was presented with a video showing her intentionally littering and then she admitted to it.

    Personally, I would be completely on board with a DQ for littering (and lying about it) and I think most other folks here would agree.

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  • The one thing interesting being missed in this discussion is that Xavier opted not to continue on. I totally get the disheartening feeling, but this to me flies in the face of peoples description of him. By this I mean the description that he is a mountain man, he does it for the love of nature, etc. Many of these sentiments exist in the comments above. Had he chosen to continue on and finish the race the RD's would have then been able to amend their decision. Even if they had not immediately revisited the DQ, maybe the light of time would have changed things. Even the RD's never amended their decision there would be an understanding in the ultra world where his performance would rank. Regardless it appears mistakes may have been made all around.

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    • I thought about that, too. plus it may give personal satisfaction, though you know your results are 'invalid'. but I think it actually ended up being a nicer thing for Jeff Browning for XT to have not finished. I don't know if that was on his mind at all, but it helped to make Browning's win feel more like a win (which it was!).

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  • Really sad day for Ultrarunning. He was light years ahead, gives the whole thing a really bad taste. He was unbeatable on the day, no matter whether he git a bit of water or not. We are not at the Olympics. A lower penalty would surely suffice and a friendly reminder to crew and runner about the rules. I am also shocked that some people are so eager to report such, for me minor, violations, especially given the fact that XT was unbeatable on that day.

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  • Did the crew miss Xavier at the Ouray aid station? If so, that would pretty much explain everything. He might have arrived at the aid station earlier than his crew, thus they could have tried to meet up somewhere else. I wouldn't call this "cheating", although out of the rules. This race seems to me a "take or leave" thing, a magnificent adventure on a side, based on anachronistic practices on the other side (crews, pacers). While Xavier is likely a true passionate of the adventurous side of the race, he might have been hit by surprise when the race director has applied to a strict enforcement of rules. To use his words, in a "context" like this, he thought he wasn't doing anything wrong.

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    • Claudio - they did not miss him at the Ouray aid station.

      The RD doesn't seem to think it was egregious cheating either, but a clear violation of the rules. The problem is that if he was allowed to finish, could his time be fairly compared to others? So a time penalty does seem like it would make sense, but then how much? That gets complicated, especially since it's not a practice with precedent in the USA (correct me if wrong, does anyone know if time penalties have been used much in USA races?).

      I think I would have been happy with an asterisk next to his time marking it as technically invalid in the history of HR results, but clearly as the winner on the day.

      iRunFar clearly chose to not publish the photos taken by Tony Russ, so I won't link to them here. Needless to say, if anyone really wants to see them you can search online. I suggest doing this - it definitely made me a little bit less sympathetic to XT's case, though I still have mad respect for him and he is a great athlete.

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      • Poban, thank you for the answer. Well, while basically I do agree with you on everything you say - and yes, I have seen the pictures - yet I wonder on a side note whether this race, which apparently benefits of a substantial sponsorship, is not ready at this point for the next level (the standard, I would say, is set by European events like UTMB or Lavaredo Ultra Trail). Couldn't this unfortunate accident be a (sort of) crossroads for the organizers?

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  • All,

    It's time for us to post a reminder that iRunFar has a comment policy, https://www.irunfar.com/irunfar-comment-policy. If you haven't read it, please do before commenting. Unfounded accusations about people and brands are against policy. Personal attacks on people are against policy. Intentionally inflammatory language is also against policy.

    As we have said many times on iRunFar in the past, speak here like you would speak to others with whom you are trail running. When we trail run, we debate, disagree, and sometimes even legit fight. But in person with each other, we are almost always civil and constructive. This is the simple sniff test of commenting on iRunFar: would you say what you are saying here to someone in real life?

    I personally believe we have the ability to grow productively as a community out of what happened last weekend if we choose to make our conversations about it productive. Please choose that path here on iRunFar. Thank you.

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    • You all have gone well beyond your policy in allowing some of the comments. Not sure if that is a good or bad thing but understand you are in a tricky position, damned if you let it go and damned if you don't allow it in some folks eyes. If one reads through the comments, there are very few that are actually constructive. Take Care.

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  • Way too harsh! Xavier clearly won the race given his commanding lead at the point he was DQ'ed - it's too bad the decision was made to not have this fact reflected in the official results. He clearly broke the rules and clearly should have been penalized - but a severe time penalty would have been more than sufficient for such a minor non-malicious infraction. Imagine if an hour would have been knocked off his finish time - would this article with over 100 comments even exist? Probably not - the story would have been: dude messed up, RD made a tough decision to levy a severe time penalty - don't forget to follow the rules! End of story...

    Instead we get to have not-fun conversations about candy-from-spectators, beer-swilling outside aid stations, etc. I've even seen calls for Rule #1 be enforced - there was whining on the course, more DQs!

    In the end, it's just sad. Integrity is more than just strict adherence to a rule set - it's recognizing what's at stake and adapting to the conditions as they're presented.

    Thanks for a great article (and the time and effort taken to create it) and providing a forum for discussion!

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    • According to C.S. Lewis, the definition of Integrity is:

      "Doing the right thing. Even when no one is watching."

      Would that apply more to Dale or Xavier?

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      • yeah, so, that quote from C.S. Lewis is really a moralistic definition of integrity. I don't think anyone, including Dale, thinks Xavier did something unethical - he made an inadvertent mistake. So the question of integrity is about the nature of HR, not the ethical behaviour of the participants. As Dale stated, his decision was based on maintaining the integrity of the race. I totally get that - however, here's the thing - when asked why he didn't levy a more reasonable time penalty vs. a DQ:

        "We did talk about a time penalty, but without any kind of a template or understanding of what that might look like, it seemed to us it would be a very contrived amount of time without deliberation and without looking at other models."

        So it sounds like the decision was made not to create policy-on-the-fly. Well, there's never been a DQ at HR, so like it or not, policy is being made. The question is whether you're going to enact policy that fits the situation or you're going to rigidly follow a set of rules created in the past that may or may not apply to the present. The decision that was made has no heart - a computer algorithm could have produced the same result. I hope HR sees the error in what occurred and has the grace to admit a mistake was made and issues an apology to Xavier and the community. The results are fixed and can't be changed - but things can still be made right. It just takes heart.

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