Tuesday, September 07, 2010

You should be ashamed of yourself

The title of this entry is a phrase that I recall hearing numerous times, probably from a grandparent, when I was growing up. It was usually in response to me doing something that I shouldn't have done, and it was a form of punishment that relied on my own sense of guilt for doing something that I knew was wrong. 

As adults, we learn about things as we go through life, and part of what we learn is to distinguish between things that are right and things that are wrong. We also learn that life is complex, and that sometimes the distinction between right and wrong isn't very clear. The philosophical implications of that ambiguity are beyond me and something better left to the professionals (such as my uncle and cousin, both of whom have chaired the philosophy department at a major university). However, there are some fairly well-defined things that we all agree are wrong. One thing that we all know is wrong is cheating. Cheating can be defined as "Acting dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage, especially in a game or examination". 

Recently, the sponsors of the CQ World Wide DX contests have begun to do something that should have been done long ago. They are publicly identifying and punishing those who cheat in their contests. A recent article on the Radio-Sport blog discusses how a number of well-known contesters have been either disqualified or moved into different categories because they were caught cheating. In a very few cases, the operators involved accidentally broke the rules, but it appears now that the majority of them knew what they were doing was wrong, and didn't expect to get caught. In the past, when such things happened, they weren't well-publicized, and often the only way anyone ever found out was by noticing that a well-known station was missing from the final results. Even then, the contest sponsor would not comment on the reason for the disqualification. It just "happened".

From the information published in the Radio-Sport blog, it would appear that most amateurs are pleased with CQ's new policy of naming and publicly punishing the offenders. I am certainly among them, and I'd like to congratulate CQ for this new policy.  Just like in "real life", if you cheat and get caught, you will have to suffer the consequences. CQ has done a good job of shaming those involved in cheating, which I think is warranted. In ham radio contests, we aren't competing for multi-million dollar prizes, we're competing for the right to be proud of our accomplishments. If you cheat, removing that pride is pretty much all that can be done.

I would like to encourage the ARRL and other contest sponsors to follow CQ's lead. The technology exists today to catch cheaters, and it should be used wherever possible to do so. Quietly disqualifying someone is a disservice and an insult to the vast majority of operators who contest honestly and with integrity.


  1. Hello David,

    I did read the article on radio-sport. What I understand is that it's all about the assisted-unassisted rule. Well, these days I think there should be no unassisted category anymore. I see no Dutch stations with a penalty for claiming a score in the unassisted category, though I think 99% is assisted. Yesterday I got a
    2010 WPX Contest Survey and one of the questions was about this unassisted category. I tried to make a point to them they should drop this. So cheating gets difficult that way. 73, Bas

  2. Hello Bas,
    First, I want to say that I agree that the assisted category should be eliminated. From what I have read, it would appear that while it may help some smaller stations, it doesn't make a major difference for the guys who are at the top of the scoreboards. With that said, I would like to note that while many of those who were DQ'd were judged guilty of using unclaimed assistance, it seems that a lot of them also had "unverifiable contacts" as well.

  3. Anonymous9:29 AM

    Contesters pleas give me a break the whole thing is totally out of control if you ask me. If your not in the contest you might as well shut the station down for the weekend and go fishing.With multi able contests going on the entire armature radio spectrum is over run by operators
    all talking on top of on another qrm ing each outher with no reguard for any one else on the band.I cant say how many times when trying to have a qso with an another hams one of these clowns gets right on our frequency and starts contesting with never asking if the frequency is in use??? Then thell move one kc next to you and start calling again.It is typical of ham radio today not that all hams are like this of course not but half of these guys are a bunch of LIDS all plug and play operators and could not build a simple dipole or construct anything thats related to the hobbie. Nor do they even want to try.All that aside ham radio is still a great hobbie. kj4jsn

  4. KJ4JSN - I have to say that I disagree with you. While it's true that perhaps for a weekend a couple of your favorite band segments are more heavily used than normal, there are always WARC bands (not used in any contests) and, for many contest, the mode that isn't being used in the contest.

    Unfortunately, this isn't limited to contesters. There are rag-chewers who insist on using "their" frequency, DXers who call CQ over ongoing contest QSOs, and just folks who don't "play well with others".

    And part of the great part about this hobby is that nobody makes you be an expert at any one thing. For example, I know folks who aren't very mechanically inclined who probably can't build a dipole but they can write code to do digital modes, or they can build logging programs or station automation tools. I know guys who can listen to a 40wpm CW conversation while talking to someone else in the room, never miss a phrase, but won't switch to computer logging because "it's too complicated". To each his own.