Cheating to win is as old as sport itself, but two Chinese pigeon racers took it to modern-day extremes when they hid the birds in milk cartons and hopped on a bullet train.
It was no surprise, then, when their homing pigeons scooped the first four places in the race and total prize money of more than 1 million yuan (US$146,365).
However, the pigeons’ rapid times soon raised suspicions and Shanghai race organizers turned the men in when the scale of the ruse emerged, Legal Daily reported.
The two men, surnamed Gong and Zhang, attempted to conceal their crime by killing the birds and giving up the prize money, the state newspaper said.
Howerver, it was too late and a Shanghai court handed the duo suspended sentences of three years in prison for fraud, it added.
The court also fined Gong 30,000 yuan and Zhang 20,000 yuan, Legal Daily said, adding that they also broke competition rules by using older pigeons instead of one-year-olds.
The two men went to great lengths to beat the opposition in the race in April last year from Shangqiu, Henan Province, to Shanghai, a distance of about 750km.
Gong and Zhang started their plan a year in advance, raising the pigeons at two feeding points, in Henan and Shanghai, to familiarize the birds with the locations.
After handing the pigeons over to organizers in Henan, rather than flying straight to Shanghai, the birds went to a feeding point elsewhere in the province.
There, they were concealed in milk cartons for the bullet-train ride to Shanghai, where they were released to the finish line and first place.
Gong and Zhang would not serve jail time unless they commit more wrongdoing — forgoing the prize money saved them from time behind bars.
Pigeon racing is popular among older people in China, and Shanghai is considered the modern-day home of the sport.
Speeds vary depending on distance, but racing pigeons can fly about 150kph — fast, but not as fast as a bullet train.
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