Cheating their way to a one million yuan prize, two Chinese competitors in a domestic homing pigeon race smuggled their birds on a high-speed train, taking home the top prize.

The racers, surnamed Gong and Zhang, took part in the annual competition held by Shanghai Racing Pigeon Association (SRPA) last May, Chinese news outlet Legal Daily reports. The race invited people to send their one-year-old birds in a long distance flying challenge starting from central China’s Henan Province to Shanghai in east China, a course covering over 600 kilometers.

A total of 5,850 pigeons took off from the start line in Henan’s Shangqiu City in the morning of May 1. Gong’s and Zhang’s birds were among the competitors. All participants were tagged with a tracking device that timed their flight, and their results would be announced online once the birds reached the destination.

Participating pigeons were required to wear a tracking ring. /Shanghai Morning Post Photo

At around 4:30 p.m., the first pigeon touched the finish line, with the winner breaking the existing record. The bird belonged to Zhang. Within the next hour, another three birds arrived at the goal, all belonging to either Zhang or Gong.

Shocked and baffled, many pigeon racers soon started questioning the results, especially after they discovered that Zhang’s and Gong’s birds covered longer distances with shorter times, Shanghai Morning Post reported last year.

Receiving complaints from multiple participants, SRPA initiated an investigation towards the first 1,000 birds returning to Shanghai and reported the case to the police.

Pigeons qualified for the race were stamped after SRPA’s investigation. /Shanghai Morning Post Photo

When the organization contacted Gong and Zhang, both racers claimed that their birds were already lost or dead. They later voluntarily gave up the cash prizes which totaled over a million yuan (approximately 146,000 US dollars).

The two were later arrested by the police for investigation and confessed they had cheated during the race and killed the winner pigeons.

Gong told police that they had trained the pigeons before the race to fly to a rally point near the starting line. Their plan was to collect the birds during the race and smuggle them back to Shanghai via high-speed train.

Their plan worked. But fearing their fowl play would result in serious legal consequences, Gong and Zhang chose to give up the prizes.

The duo each received a three-year suspended sentence, Legal Daily reported the court’s decision on Monday. A district-level court in Shanghai fined Gong, the criminal mastermind 30,000 yuan (4,400 US dollars) and Zhang 20,000 yuan (2,900 US dollars).


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