n the ultra high-stakes world of competitive pigeon racing, some will do anything they can to reach the top, even resorting to some very fowl play.
At the 16th Annual Shanghai Homing Pigeon Race last April, pigeons owned by a pair of trainers, surnamed Gong and Zhang, took the top four spots — all with suspiciously fast times. The competition saw hundreds of trained homing pigeons fly more than 700 kilometers, from Shangqiu, a city in the eastern part of Henan province, all the way to Shanghai.
However, it turns out that instead of Shanghai, the two men had trained their birds to fly directly to a roost near to the starting line. After the race began on April 29th, they picked up the pigeons at the roost, stuffed them inside milk cartons, and smuggled them on board a high-speed train to Shanghai, according to China’s Legal Daily.
Then, on the afternoon of May 1st, Gong and Zhang released their birds near their respective breeding sites in Shanghai. With their competitors nowhere to be seen, the duo’s pigeons came in first, second, third, and fourth, earning them a total purse of 1.09 million yuan ($160,000).
However, their fellow pigeon racers soon began to express serious doubts over the blazing fast times. The pair nervously started plotting to fake the deaths or disappearances of their birds and refused to accept their winnings. Considering this curious behavior indeed, the Shanghai Pigeon Racing Association filed a lawsuit against the two.
This week, Gong and Zhang were both found guilty of fraud by a Shanghai court. Because they declined to accept the cash prizes, their punishment was mitigated, each receiving a three-year suspended sentence. As the mastermind of the scheme, Gong was fined 30,000 yuan while Zhang was fined 20,000 yuan.