Flight of fancy becomes fast train to court

Two pigeon fanciers took their birds on a fast train instead of letting them fly home, but made obvious blunders.

Two men have been sentenced for rigging a 1-million-yuan (US$145,000) homing pigeon race, Changning District People’s Court said yesterday.

Instead of allowing the birds fly under their own steam, pigeon fanciers Gong and Zhang took their feathered friends for a ride on a fast train.

The two entered the 16th Shanghai Carrier Pigeon Association championship last year, but began preparing to cheat a year before.

In a pigeon race, all competing birds are released from the same point and fly “home.” The journey is timed and the bird with the highest average speed wins.

At least a year before the race, the pair of scoundrels set up a pigeon loft in Shanghai and another in central China’s Henan Province, where the competition usually begins.

In Henan, a farmer was paid 500 yuan a month to look after the pigeons. The purpose was to familiarize the birds with both homes so that they would fly directly to the nearest.

On May 1 last year, along with almost 6,000 others, the birds were released from Yucheng County in Henan. Instead of flying to Shanghai, they went directly to their second home in Henan, where Gong and Zhang were waiting with tickets for a fast train to Shanghai. When they got to the city, the birds were released and flew directly to their more familiar home.

As a result, Gong and Zhang’s birds scooped the top four prizes and won 1.09 million yuan.

The competition was broadcast live on the internet and the results soon attracted the ire of other participants. The bird that won the top prize flew 18 kilometers farther than the fifth prize winner, but 51 minutes faster — an astonishing feat and obvious blunder!

The association decided to investigate. Afraid their cheating would be discovered, Gong and Zhang killed the winning birds and didn't dare collect the prize money. But all to no avail. The association still reported them to the police.

Gong was sentenced to three years in jail with a four-year reprieve and fined 30,000 yuan. Zhang was sentenced to three years with a three-year reprieve and fined 20,000 yuan.

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