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Disqualification-Induced Victory

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NASA administrator: Well, Homer, I guess you're the winner by default.
Homer: Default? Woo-hoo! The two sweetest words in the English language!

So you got your typical Underdog story. The protagonist tries to compete in a competition. Sadly, despite his best efforts, he ends up being juuust behind the winning competitors during the first round, and he seems to have lost. With his hopes crushed, he is about to go back home... but what's that? One of the winners is revealed to have been cheating! This results in their disqualification... Since this leaves an empty space among the winners, and the protagonist was the closest behind them, he manages to get in after all! That lucky bastard!


Shortly saying, this trope refers to any situation where a character or a team loses in a competition, but still manages to either win or get to the next round because of the winner or one of the winners getting disqualified. A less frequent variant involves the original winner being unable to compete due to sudden injury or sickness, allowing the protagonist to step in.

See also Underdogs Never Lose and Second Place Is for Winners. Related to We Win... Because You Didn't.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Carnival Phantasm, Berserker defeated Caster in a tennis contest when Caster was distracted, yet he was disqualified for swinging too hard and hitting the wall, Illya even called him out for not understanding any rule.
  • In the Gunpla Artistic Cup at the end of Gundam Build Fighters Try, everyone is expecting Minato to win... not without good reason, as it honestly does look like his "Super Fumina" model took a lot of skill to build. However, Yuuma and his Lightning Zeta Gundam are announced as the winners. When Minato demands an explanation, Meijin Kawaguchi explains that Minato had not received Fumina's permission to use her likeness (evident in her reaction of shock/embarrassment/horror when she saw the model), thus he was disqualified.
  • A variation in My Hero Academia. In the sports festival, Ojiro, Shoda, and Aoyama advance to the third round due to Shinso brainwashing them into joining his team. While Shinso's strategy was allowable, Ojiro and Shoda back out because they won't accept a victory they didn't earn. Midnight offers to allow team Kendo (made of Kendo, Tokage, Komori, and Yanagi) to send two of their members to replace them, as they were the next-place team, but they insist that team Tetsutetsu (made of Tetsutetsu, Shiozaki, Honenuki, and Awase) deserves the place more than they do (team Kendo was incapacitated halfway through the second round and only didn't lose all their points because Todoroki was moving too fast to grab all their headbands, whereas team Tetsutetsu was in third place until Shinso brainwashed them into giving him their points at the very end). Because of the six people ahead of them backing out, Tetsutetsu and Shiozaki advance to the third round.
  • A similar situation to the above occurs in Red Line, JP loses the qualification round for the titular Red Line race. However, when multiple qualifiers back out (due to the race being set on a Death World), JP qualifies due to popular vote.
  • During the Cooking Fest arc in Toriko, Setsuno reveals that this is how she won the first ever festival. She was the runner up, but the victor, Joie, was disqualified after it was discovered he had broken several rules.
  • In Yu Yu Hakusho, this happens to Team Togoro's Karasu posthumously. While Kurama was able to kill Karasu at the end of their match, he wasn't able to break the 10-count before it happened. The result is a ring-out disqualification for Kurama and the match victory going to Karasu.

    Comic Books 
  • Invoked in Asterix and the Olympic Games: Asterix finishes last in the Romans-only 24-stadia dash, but still ends up winning the prize because every one of his Roman competitors illegally imbibed the magic potion (Asterix and Getafix made sure they would). The proof is that they all have blue tongues because of the blue coloring Getafix added to the potion.
  • Happened in one Archie Comic where Betty and Big Ethel compete against Veronica and Midge in beach volleyball game. Veronica has hired a scorekeeper, who unfairly calls several fouls on Betty's team, despite those girls playing well. The judge soon states he's ashamed to even give Veronica the trophy, soon Veronica belligerently starts yelling that she is the daughter of the head of Lodge Enterprises. Then the judge states that her father's company is sponsoring the game and is therefore disqualified. Betty and Big Ethel win the game.
  • The second Confessions of a Teenage Vampire graphic novel features a costume party for Halloween. The newly-introduced Talbot, a werewolf, attends as a werewolf while the human Derek goes as a zombie. Talbot wins the costume contest, but sees how crushed Derek is and claims he bought his "costume" at a store. He's disqualified and Derek is crowned the rightful winner.
  • Dick Dastardly is the confirmed winner of the Scavenger Scramble (Wacky Races #6, Gold Key) when Penelope Pitstop—who was first to the finish line—is disqualified for misinterpreting one of the items. The first item was a "real gone muffler," a beat-up exhaust pipe, but Penelope brought a crazy-colored scarf.

    Films — Animated 
  • During the climactic tiebreaker race in Cars, Chick Hicks pushes The King off the racetrack, heavily damaging him. As a result, Lightning McQueen, who having understood a similar fate Doc Hudson went through when he was a racecar known as the Hudson Hornet, lets Chick cross the finish line first so he can help The King cross the finish line one last time. Chick is still given the Piston Cup, but because of both his dirty trick and Lightning's noble action, he is denied the Dinoco sponsorship, which is offered to Lightning instead, but he too turns it down in favor of learning the movie's moral.
  • Kronk's New Groove: Birdie's team wins the first event of a competition because Kronk's is disqualified for not waiting for their turn to perform.
  • In Monsters University, Mike and Sully fail the scaring exam and are unable to continue their studies. Mike comes up with an idea to team up with the local loser team called Oozma Kappa and compete in Scare Games, so they can prove that they are good at scaring after all. They bet with the University's dean that if they win, they get to continue their studies, but if they lose, they get expelled completely. The first game is a race where you have to avoid poisonous sea urchins. Mike and Sully run ahead of the rest of the team, cross the finish line, and at first it seems that they won... but then they're informed that the entire team has to cross the finish line for it to count, and the rest of Oozma Kappa arrives last. Since each game ends with the worst team getting kicked out, it seems that all is lost... but then it's revealed that one of the teams used a gel that rendered them immune to the urchins, resulting in their disqualification. Hence, Oozma Kappa manages to win after all.
  • In Disney's Planes, Dusty competes in a test race deciding which planes will get into the big "Wings Around the Globe" race. Dusty manages to get to the sixth place, just below the winner planes. He comes back home depressed, but a day or so later, a guy arrives to tell him that one of the winner planes was using an illegal fuel, and therefore Dusty got in after all.
  • In Surf's Up, Chicken Joe wins the surfing contest when antagonist Tank was attempting to push Chicken Joe in an attempt to wipe him out, but Cody interferes, causing both to enter the Boneyard, an out-of-bounds area for disqualification.
  • Ballerina: Once per day, one of the girls trying to get a role in the opera must leave the tests. Félicie would be out during the first day if not for the fact one of the other girls got stuck while performing a move.
  • Robbie the Reindeer: Blitzen wins a race but runner-up Robbie is declared the winner once Blitzen is disqualified for racing while under the effect of drugs.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • During one tournament in A Knight's Tale, William starts losing on purpose because the Love Interest told him to prove that he loved her. This would have been a problem, except that none of the other competitors did particularly well, either, so after the Love Interest relents William is able to win despite losing his first round of jousts.
  • In Akeelah and the Bee, Akeelah would have been out in the very early stages of the qualifiers to get to the National Spelling Bee if her competitor's mother had not been caught mouthing him words.
  • Played with in Bring It On: the Toros don't score very well in the semi-finals (using a routine that's the exact duplicate of another squad's routine, which is normally grounds for disqualification) but because they're defending champions they get to go to the finals anyway.
  • In the climax of Bad Words, Guy invokes Loophole Abuse in order to give Chaitanya the win. The way he does this (purposely misspelling a word on Chaitanya's turn, fully expecting him to correct the error) ensures that, even if Guy didn't get disqualified, Chaitanya still would have won.
  • The film Cannonball sees the driver in the Blazer cheat by flying across the country. He claims victory, but can't find the bottle of champagne he planned to use to celebrate. His female companion says they must have left it on the plane.
  • In both the 1971 and 2005 adaptations of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, this trope gets a lucky twist. Charlie buys chocolate just to eat it after learning all five Golden Tickets have been found, but overhears people discussing the news that one of the winners actually forged his ticket...he promptly opens his chocolate wrap, discovering the real final Golden Ticket inside.
  • In Die Another Day, Miranda Frost got an Olympic silver medal for fencing, but was upgraded to gold when her opponent failed a drug test. The Big Bad, knowing Miranda hated the idea of being second best, rigged the drug test in exchange for Miranda becoming his Mole.
  • In DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story:
    • The Average Joe's have to win at least one game to qualify for the championships. However they suffer a humiliating defeat at the hands of some evil girlscouts. Fortunately, one of the scouts tests positive for steroids and beaver tranquillisers, so the Joe's win by default.
    • Nearer the end of the film, there's a downplayed example; when the main antagonist appears to have managed to hit Vince Vaughn's character and won... but luckily his foot was over the line, so it didn't count. The DVD comes with an alternative ending where this doesn't happen and there's a Downer Ending.
  • Drop Dead Gorgeous has this happen twice to protagonist Amber Atkins. Amber wins first runner-up in her local beauty pageant, but then gets to advance to the state competition when the winner dies in a fire. She then gets to advance to the national competition after the every other member of the competition gets food poisoning at the rehearsal lunch buffet, leaving her the winner by default.
  • A related phenomenon occurs in the first The Mighty Ducks movie. They lose at least half of the games in the season, but due to a series of extreme coincidences (chief among them an entire team coming down with a serious illness and forfeiting their season) they make it to the playoffs.
  • In Miss Congeniality, it's mentioned that Cathy Morningside, the pageant's director and a former Miss United States herself, was actually the first runner-up the year she competed. It just so happened that the winner "mysteriously" came down with food poisoning shortly thereafter, so the crown passed to her by default. Sure enough, she turns out to be the Big Bad.
  • My Way: Jun-shik wins a marathon against Tatsuo, but the Japanese authorities refuse to allow a Korean to beat their champion, and disqualify Jun-shik by accusing him of cheating. A disgusted Tatsuo refuses the award and walks away, while the Koreans start to riot, ending with Jun-shik and several others being forcibly enlisted in the Japanese army.
  • In Nacho Libre, the winner of a battle royale wrestling match gets a title fight against champ Ramses. Nacho is the last man eliminated, with the victory going to Ramses' goon Silencio. When Silencio is injured the day before the match, Nacho gets to fight Ramses instead.
  • In Pitch Perfect, the girls are able to progress to Nationals because the soloist of one of the qualifying groups is too young.
  • In Shaolin Soccer, this was what Team Evil was going for in the title match against the Shaolin monks - rather than try to score goals, they would injure enough players to force them to forfeit by not fielding enough players.
  • Barely averted in Space Jam as Marvin the Martian warns Michael Jordan that, without a fifth player on the court, they're disqualified. Seeing as the Monstars has just pulverized virtually every last Loony Tune and left only Jordan, Bugs, Lola and Daffy still standing, being disqualified meant everyone gets to be slaves of an intergalactic amusement park. Thankfully, Bill Murray shows up to save the day.
  • In Sunday School Musical, Crossroads is pretty dismal as a choir. Fortunately for them, two of the three choirs will go to State competition and the third team developed food poisoning.
  • Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Ricky Bobby and The Rival Jean Girard wreck their NASCAR vehicles, and run into the finish line on foot. They are disqualified, and the win was given to the third place Cal Naughton, Jr, who up until that moment was always Bobby's underdog.
  • Top Gun had the pilot Cougar lose his cool and turn in his wings. So Maverick and Goose get a slot at the Fighter Weapons school in his place. Their commander wanted to ground them both after their antics with Soviet Migs.

  • In the children's book Clarence Goes to Town, Clarence, who is a non-anthropomorphic dog, is signed up for a two person quiz-and-stunt contest by a neighbor who thought that the woman he is teamed up with is an expert on dogs. (She's an expert on bogs.) One of the stunts is an obstacle course; one member of the team is supposed to lead the other around while the 2nd is blindfolded. Clarence starts off well leading his teammate but then goes off track, knocking down stuff which is grounds for disqualification. But he was leading her to a small fire which had broken out backstage. The organizers of the contest decide that Clarence and his teammate deserve a prize so they're awarded a duplicate first prize, a trip to Europe.
  • Inverted in the ending of one Encyclopedia Brown story, where a girl is forced to accept the first prize she's suspected of having broken, because it can be proved that she deliberately failed one of the questions in the contest. It was a language contest and one of the questions asked about a word with three pairs of letters in a row. The girl in question referred to herself as a bookkeeper.
  • In the book Hot Rod Rodeo, protagonist Larry wins the eponymous Rodeo note  after the bad guy, who has a much better car than he does, is disqualified. We (and Larry) never find out what exactly he was disqualified for but he was seen by Larry either cheating or doing things the easy way instead of the responsible way several times, any of which, or some other incident we don't know of, a spotter could have seen too.
  • In Lords and Ladies, Granny Weatherwax and Diamanda Tockley are engaging in a public contest of magic in which the object is to outstare the Sun, to determine which of them is the better witch. Granny, weakened by thinking that she is suffering from Sanity Slippage, is losing, when a toddler runs into the magic circle and is knocked down by the magic. Granny immediately goes to see if he is harmed while Diamanda takes no notice. To Diamanda's chagrin, the townsfolk declare Granny the winner because a true witch would not ignore a child in distress. Narration makes it clear this is an invoked trope...Nanny Ogg LURED the child into doing that.
  • In the comedy/mystery Madness in Maggody, Ruby Bee organizes a baseball team of grade-school misfits, the Flamingos, to compete against Jim Bob's team of the town's best 5th and 6th grade athletes. Jim Bob's players are all disqualified by the regional league because they've flunked out so many times that they're actually too old to compete alongside grade-schoolers.
  • In the Myth Adventures short story "Myth Congeniality", Bunny enters an all-dimensions beauty pageant to win a prize her uncle wants. She's picked last out of all the contestants, but still wins because she's the only entry who wasn't caught cheating.
  • This is how Jeeves once again saves the day in the P. G. Wodehouse short story "The Purity of the Turf."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Happens all the time on The Amazing Race, where teams who come in last are saved from elimination due to another team incurring a penalty due to breaking a race rule. The only time this has affected a finale was in the second season of the Vietnam edition, where the team who checked in first received three ten-minute penalties, giving the win to the ladies who checked in second.
  • The B Plot of one Empty Nest episode has Carol and Charlie entering a chili-cooking contest. Charlie wins with Carol taking second. During his victory speech, Charlie thanks the folks at Hormell. After revealing that he was using store bought chili, Charlie's disqualified and Carol wins.
  • Glee: In the season 4 episode "Thanksgiving", Marley passes out during the performance at Sectionals because of her eating disorder. Because the rest of the glee club left the stage to check on her when she fainted, they are disqualified, allowing the Warblers to win (though, honestly, they probably would have lost anyway). However, in the season 4 episode "Sadie Hawkins", members of the New Directions discover that the Warblers (the team that had won at Sectionals) were using steroids, leading to their disqualification. This allows the New Directions to take their place at Regionals. (It should be noted that a third team competed at Sectionals and wasn't disqualified, so logically it should've been them and not New Directions advancing to Regionals. When this was brought up on Twitter, the writers responded with the MST3K Mantra.)
  • The Odd Couple had an episode where Felix was trying to win a new oven in a cooking contest, but a physical condition prevented him from the ability to use his arms. Oscar attempted to help, and in spite of screwing it up and creating something different, Felix won. But he concedes to the runner-up (a sweet girl vying for the oven as well), claiming that the dish he set out to prepare did not turn out be the proper dish.
  • In the tie-in book for Parks and Recreation, it was stated that Pawnee won a game against Eagleton due to the players on Eagleton side were on steroids.
  • Drag races on Street Outlaws have about a ten percent chance of ending this way. The two most common ways to get disqualified are to take off before the race master signals the start or to cross the line separating the drivers.
  • One challenge on Top Gear (US) had the guys buy cars from The ’80s on a budget of five thousand dollars. Adam gets a Buick Grand National which normally commands fifteen thousand dollars. He wins the challenge, but is disqualified when Rutledge tells the judge that Adam cheated.
  • Used in Tru Calling to save Tru's brother from the mob boss he owes a favor. The brother was working as a judge for a beauty pageant that the mobster's daughter was entered into and had to get the daughter to win, but his attempts were so obvious that he was fired, and she doesn't win until disqualification. He's only saved because the girl who won was the murderer of that episode.
  • Wishbone season one ep, Bone of Arc, featured Sam joining on as a replacement for the local soccer team when one of their own is injured before a championship game and managing to score the winning point. However because she wasn't properly registered as a teammate, the head coach of the other team contests it and unfortunately the judges, while impressed at Sam's ability, are forced to disqualify her team and give the victory to their opponents. The protagonists are bummed for a bit but find solace in the fact that they did beat them fair and square through ability, that the opposing side only won through a technicality and will be more then ready for them next year.
  • Power Rangers Ninja Steel: In "Monkey Business", Calvin and Hayley are running for School Council President and the rules say that, as the position's current holder, Victor will keep it if both candidates are disqualified. He tries to make it seem like each candidate is sabotaging the other. It doesn't work but the two candidates leave the run and he gets to keep his presidency.
  • Manchester University were named champions of the 2008-9 series of University Challenge after the winners of the final match, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge were disqualified for fielding an ineligible player. This atracted a lot of controversy, with accusations that at least two previous winning teams had also fielded ineligible players and the producers had known this at the time, that the rules were ambiguous at best, and that the player involved had questioned his own eligibility only for the producers to decide it was fine before changing their mind after the show aired. Even the Manchester team came out in support of their rivals, saying it was all a fuss over nothing and Corpus Christi's win should stand. Nevertheless the official record shows Manchester as champions for that series, giving them the joint record for most titles with four.
  • On Forged In Fire one contestant is eliminated at the end of each challenge based on the quality of their work. However, each challenge has a set of parameters (usually blade length and width) that have to be adhered to avoid disqualification. So a bad quality blade that followed parameters will advance if one of the better quality blades did not follow parameters and was disqualified. If multiple blades are disqualified, a tiebreaker is used so only one person is eliminated each round. Blades can also be disqualified if during testing they have a 'catastrophic blade failure' ie. the blade breaks and it is unsafe to continue testing. In this situation the only thing that can save you from elimination is if another blade fails even worse. In one throwing knife challenge, a contestant had his knife break on the fifth throw. He was ready to leave the competition but then another contestant's blade broke after three throws. Then the last contestant's blade broke on the first throw and he was the one eliminated.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Unlike most examples this is commonly used to screw over the Faces, either by removing their victory or by giving them the victory but not the belt (belts don't transfer on a DQ in most leagues). In some circles it is known as the Dusty Finish because he booked so many matches that way.
  • In 1983 Victor Jovica defeated Ric Flair for the NWA Title, but this was reversed three days later because Jovica had his legs on the ropes when he pinned Flair.
  • Zig-Zagged in the 1991 WCW\New Japan Supershow where Tatsumi Fujinami defeated Ric Flair for the NWA Heavyweight Title. In Japan the WCW and NWA Titles were considered separate but WCW considered the NWA belt as representative of the same title. In the US rebroadcast WCW said that Fujinami won the bout but didn't win the title because he threw Flair over the top rope, a disqualification under WCW rules.
  • A rare instance of an inverted Dusty Finish (the heel wins the title rather than simply not losing it) occurred in mid-1998 WCW — Chris Jericho and Dean Malenko wrestled for the vacant WCW Cruiserweight title at the Great American Bash, with Jericho winning by disqualification. The next night on Nitro, James J. Dillon ruled that Jericho now held the title because a) the match was made to crown a new champion and b) Jericho technically won the match.
  • In Chris Benoit's final WCW match he beat Sid Vicious for the vacant WCW title when Vicious tapped out to the Crossface; the next day Benoit quit WCW and less than a week later he showed up on WWE Raw. The official WCW position was that Benoit shouldn't have won because Vicious's leg was under the bottom rope when he tapped, so the hold should have been broken; ergo Benoit's win was vacated. A week later Vicious beat Kevin Nash for the title.
  • Almost a Running Gag between Sara Del Rey and Ashley Lane is the latter being whipped like she stole something, but somehow winning by disqualification. The most notable was Del Rey and Amazing Kong flattening Ashley and Nevaeh in SHIMMER but the most comical was when Lane injured Mickie James, who was scheduled to wrestle Del Rey at a Remix Pro show and found herself called as an replacement. She provoked James, who was still there signing autographs to get Del Rey DQed. James was too smart for this but the referee still decided Del Rey had used a foreign object.
  • At the tail end of August in 2014, Luscious Latasha ended "Brittany"'s two year SCW Florida Women's title reign. Few people were happy with the ending due to Latasha's cheating, so when it was clear next year that Brittany wouldn't be staying with a now Spike TV lacking TNA, Southern Championship Wrestling declared the match a draw and put the belt back on Santana Garrett.

    Puppet Shows 
  • This becomes a Running Gag in the Sesame Street episode, "Cast Iron Cook". Alan and Elmo get into a cooking competition on the titular Show Within a Show. While the opposing team is much more experienced at making the recipes than Alan and Elmo are, one of the members of the opposing team keeps accidentally dropping his items into whatever recipe they were making, thus disqualifying them each round and giving Alan and Elmo the points they need to win.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons module OA6 Ronin Challenge. The first part of the adventure is the Komite, a martial arts tournament in which one or more PCs will participate. One possible opponent for the PCs is the NPC Awang Sophir. If Sophir defeats a PC, the Komite officials will discover that he was wearing an illegal magical earring that gave him an unfair advantage. Sophir will be ejected from the Komite and the PC will win by disqualification, allowing him to advance to the Championship rounds.

    Video Games 
  • In The Legend of Dragoon, Dart is required by the story to make it to the final round of The Hero Competition. Should the player lose any of the matches, his opponent gets taken out of the competition for either cheating (i.e using poison) or something completely contrived (falling over or getting sick and being unable to fight).
  • Invoked in Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People Episode 1, where the goal during the first part of the game is to win a race disguised as Homestar. However, Pom Pom is much faster than Strong Bad, so you must get him disqualified by putting some performance-enhancing powder in his locker, making it seem like he won only because of it.
  • A legal variant happens in Pillars of Eternity — once you've claimed your Player Headquarters, Caed Nua, and built it up enough a Lord Gathbin shows up and tries to claim by right of inheritance, leading to magistrates judging the case. They judge in favour of Lord Gathbin, which would force you to vacate Caed Nua or become an outlaw... except Gathbin throws a fit when the presiding magistrate mention a clause requesting you be fairly compensated for your work clearing out monsters and repairing the place and storms out of the office, forfeiting the judgement.
  • The player can do this in Hitman 2 in the mission "The Finish Line". One of the targets you must eliminate is a race car driver during her big race, and you can manipulate events to get her or her opponent disqualified, resulting in the other person's victory. Doing either will open up opportunities to eliminate her.
  • In the Main Story of Ensemble Stars!, Trickstar know that fine is superior to them in raw talent, so they try to win through a Victory by Endurance, teaming up with the other units to tire out the chronically ill Eichi until he can't perform at his best. Despite all of this, after they finally face off against him, fine are initially announced the winner - but shortly after, it's revealed that the two units actually received exactly the same number of votes. In the case of a tie, the rules state that the winner is decided by sudden death, but due to all of the performing he's done at this point, Eichi can barely stand. Physically incapable of continuing further, he forfeits, granting Trickstar the win.

  • Played for laughs in 8-Bit Theater when Fighter comes last in a drownball tournament (due to not drowning) but is still given first prize (due to being the only surviving participant).
  • Happened the other way in Kevin & Kell. The school won the finals, thanks to Rudy getting the elk's shed antlers to make everyone think he got the elk. But they were stripped of their title when it was found out that their teammate Vin Vulpin used steroids.
  • Rusty and Co.: In a game of gnomish baseball, Stabs Doogan engineers a victory by inciting a general melee, which leaves her team penalized up the yin-yang but the other team disqualified due to heavy casualties. It also gets her incarcerated, but that's neither here nor there.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Action League Now episode, "Danger Society", The Action League challenge the Danger Society to see who can save the most victims when a school bus teeters over a TV antenna. The winners will officially become the town's newest superheroes, and the losers will have to leave town for good. Naturally, The Action League cower out when they see the situation. When they are waiting at a bus stop afterwards, the Danger Society land their helicopter in front of them to taunt them. However, they have landed their helicopter right in the path of an oncoming bus. The bus flattens them, and by technicality, the League is back in business.
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius:
    • In the episode "Maximum Hugh", during a parent/child competition, Jimmy uses technology to augment his dad's athletic skills and ends up disqualified.... and his Rival-slash-not-girlfriend also gets disqualified because she used an Olympic-athlete aunt as a Super Ringer for her mom (though even she apparently didn't know it was her in disguise)... and then every other team admits to doing a disqualification-worthy fault at one point of the competition or another, leaving only Jimmy's Chew Toy friend Carl and his equally-unlucky dad (who were dead last) the winners by default.
    • The episode "Jimmy For President" has Jimmy, Sheen, Libby, and Bolbi each running for School President. Jimmy, Sheen, and Libby end up having a three-way tie, and Carl is the only student who hasn't voted yet. He ends up confessing to Ms. Fowl that Cindy paid him to vote for Libby, Sheen blackmailed him with an embarrassing photo of him at Ike's slumber party, and Jimmy was playing the "Best Friend" card and using scantily clad women. Ms. Fowl disqualifies Libby for bribery, Sheen for blackmail, and Jimmy for operating a zeppelin on school premises without a permit, thus resulting in Bolbi being the School President by default.
    • "Best in Show" begins with Jimmy entering Goddard in the Retroville pet show, and competing against Cindy, who enters Humphrey. Goddard appears to win the pet show at first, but Cindy points out that Goddard is a machine and technically not a live animal. This results in Goddard being disqualified and Humphrey winning by default.
  • Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • In a "Sonic Sez" segment about wearing seatbelts, Sonic holds a race between Scratch and Edgar Eagle to determine who is the real Edgar Eagle. Scratch wins the race but gets disqualified for not wearing his seat belt, leaving the real Edgar Eagle, who does, the winner by default.
    • Another "Sonic Sez" segment about cheating involves Dr. Robotnik and Dr. Quark racing each other. Sonic disqualifies them both for cheating; the former for throwing a Banana Peel in the latter's path, and the latter for tying the former's shoelaces together.
  • One episode of Gravedale High had Frankentyke befriend a racehorse whose owner is desperate for a victory. However, they are unaware the owner's assistant is secretly working for the villains. During the deciding race, the horse starts to take victory with Frankentyke riding it. Then, the traitorous assistant reveals his duplicity by knocking another rider off of his horse and riding it to victory. As he's gloating over his victory, Sid informs him that he's been disqualified for changing riders during a race.
  • Gravity Falls: "The Stanchurian Candidate" episode centers on Grunkle Stan, Bud Gleeful and a number of other people being candidates for the new mayor of Gravity Falls. After a long and troubled election, Grunkle Stan manages to win due to impressing people with his heroic rescue of Mabel and Dipper (his grandchildren)... but then loses when many of his past crimes are discovered, and the position is instead given to Tyler Cutebiker, aka "the only candidate who bothered to fill out the paperwork".
  • The Hair Bear Bunch: Botch wins a wrestling contest when the adversary who defeated him is disqualified for being a gorilla (the zoo's main gorilla Bananas).
  • Inspector Gadget once had to enter an auto race to stop Dr. Claw from cheating his way to victory. Gadget's about to win when Claw converts the Madmobile into a jet and passes him that way. The announcer initially names Dr. Claw the winner, only to announce seconds later that Claw has been disqualified for leaving the ground and Gadget has won. Then, it's revealed that Gadget was taking part as part of the investigation and could not claim the prize. The official winner is someone else.
  • MAD: In "Malcolm in the Middle Earth", Malcolm wins a science fair because he's the only entrant using actual science instead of magic.
  • In the Martha Speaks episode, "Wagstaff Races", the neighborhood kids enter a green go-kart race. T.D. and Alice's wind-powered go-kart places just behind Ronald and Reginald, whose go-kart appears to be powered by a swimming goldfish, and who have been sabotaging the other racers' go-karts. This isn't what disqualifies them, though. What does disqualify them is that their car is revealed to be a disguised gas-powered lawnmower when they crash into a lamp post after arguing over who gets to drive the victory lap. T.D. and Alice win the trophy as a result.
  • Miss Moon: Jules and Lola are declared the winners of a pedal boat tournament when the judge finds the motor on Kevin's boat.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic season five episode, "Brotherhooves Social". Due to Applejack having to go out of town on a Friendship Mission, Big Mac offers to compete with Apple Bloom for the Sisterhooves Social...dressed in drag as cousin "Orchid Blossom". Eventually, it comes down to the final event, a simple race, and Big Mac and Apple Bloom manage to win. However they're disqualified, but not because Big Mac was disguised (In fact, the judge even mentions that it wasn't necessary and would've allowed him to compete regardless of gender. Didn't help that pretty much nopony was falling for the ruse anyway) but because of generally poor sportsmanship on Mac's part due to getting a bit too competitive and practically rampaging through the track, which is not something they endorse. Thus Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo, who came in second, end up winning.
  • In the Rocket Power movie "Race Across New Zealand", Theodore McGill gets his win revoked after confessing to taking an out-of-bounds shortcut in the final race. His dad's win over Raymundo in the very first competition was also revoked for the same reason.
  • In the Rocko's Modern Life episode "Gutter Balls", Ed's team gets their trophy revoked after he's caught disguising himself as his wife Beverly, causing the trophy to go to Rocko's team instead.
  • In the Rugrats episode, "Beauty Contest", in order to win the Kingfisher 9000 sports boat, Stu and Grandpa Lou dress Tommy as a girl and enter him in a beauty contest, where Tommy's cousin, Angelica is also competing. Tommy wins, until Didi reveals to the judges that Tommy is actually a boy by removing his wig. The judges disqualify Tommy and Angelica wins. Grandpa Lou doesn't mind when he remembers that Angelica is his granddaughter.
  • The Simpsons:
    • "Deep Space Homer" has NASA look for ordinary people to become astronauts, ending up with Homer and Barney. Barney by far outperforms Homer, but as soon as he drinks (what he thinks is) alcohol, he reverts to his previous state, leaving Homer the winner by default.
    • We see the other side of the coin in "Lisa the Beauty Queen" where Lisa is crowned Little Miss Springfield note . The pageant's sponsor (Laramie Cigarettes) doesn't like her speaking out against smoking so they find a loophole: on the entry form where it says "Do not write in this space" Homer wrote "O.K." Lisa is disqualified and the title goes back to the original winner.
    • Another episode has Duffman retire due to injury, so Duff Brewery runs a reality show where the winner becomes the new Duffman. At the end, it's down to Homer and a guy we've never seen before. The guy we've never seen before wins...until he takes off his shirt to change into the Duffman costume. It turns out that he has the logo of a rival brewery tattooed on his lower back and is disqualified. Homer is then crowned the winner.
    • "Saddlesore Galactica" has Lisa and her school's band lose to the Ogdenville band because they use glowsticks to create an image of the American flag note . She thus starts to file complaints to increasingly higher levels, eventually reaching the President of the United States Bill Clinton himself, who shows up and says that their glowsticks were visual aids that were forbidden, resulting in the Ogdenville band being disqualified and Springfield Elementary winning. The lesson Lisa says this situation gave her is that if you whine and complain long and loud enough, someone will eventually get on your side.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode, "Slimy Dancing", Squidward fails the audition for the Bikini Bottom dance contest, and thus goes in disguise by going inside SpongeBob and having his arms and legs stick out of him. Squidward has a cramp during his dance, but actually does manage to win, until SpongeBob blows his cover and it is revealed that the contest states that all dancers are not allowed to be assisted by a partner. It is also revealed that every other dancer in the contest is assisted by a partner, except for Patrick, who also has a cramp during his dance, thus Patrick wins the contest by default.
    • "The Great Snail Race" also does this. After Gary crashes into a wall (due to overexertion caused by Spongebob's Training from Hell), Squidward's snail stops just shy of the finish line and leaves the track to comfort Gary, disqualifying her. Therefore, the remaining racer, and winner, is Rocky, Patrick's pet rock (somehow crossing the finish line, no less). However, Patrick acknowledges Squidward's desire to win, so he gives him the trophy... which is engraved to Squidward Tortellini.
  • In the short, "Bleacher Bummer" from the Tiny Toon Adventures episode, "The Wacko World of Sports", Perfecto Prep's baseball team clobbers Acme Looniversity's in a game that Dizzy and Furrball are trying to sneak into. When Dizzy and Furrball get chased by Arnold, who is working as a security guard, they break the Perfectos' baseball bat, revealing they have been cheating using the "Magnet-in-the-bat" scam, resulting in them getting disqualified and Acme Looniversity's team winning the game by default.
  • The one time that Dick Dastardly actually won in Wacky Races, he was disqualified because he'd extended the front of his car over the finish line artificially. Oddly enough, a different competitor did the same thing in a different episode, and they were not disqualified for it. So it seems it was only against the rules when Dick Dastardly did it.
  • Wander over Yonder: "The Time Bomb" has Sylvia and Wander competing in the Galactic Conjunction 6000. Wander has to help Sylvia keep calm due to her competitive nature causing her to lose her temper, which earned her the nickname "Time Bomb". She gets second place but is glad that she was able to finish the race thanks to Wander's help. Until it's revealed that the winner got disqualified for cheating, giving Sylvia and Wander first place.

    Real Life 
  • In some sports leagues, if a championship winner is found to have been using steroids or other kinds of drugs, then the second place competitor will get the award. This happened in the 2006 and 2010 Tour de France; the winners (Floyd Landis and Alberto Contador, respectively) were caught using PEDs, and the title ended up going to the second-place rider (Óscar Pereiro and Andy Schleck, respectively). Averted for the 1999-2005 Tours, where no riders were awarded the win in place of the disqualified Lance Armstrong, as almost all the top cyclists were doping at the time. As they couldn't be sure which cyclists, if any, were playing fair, they didn't reassign the titles.
  • The Denmark national football team, the eventual winners of the 1992 European Championship, only qualified after Yugoslavia was disqualified due to political issues.
  • On December 6, 1925, the Pottsville Maroons, one of the many small-city teams in the early National Football League, defeated the Chicago Cardinals 21 to 7 to take the lead in the league standings. Six days later note , they played an unauthorized exhibition game against the Notre Dame All-Stars in Philadelphianote . The NFL revoked their league membership with a week left in the season, leaving the Maroons one win short and giving the Cardinals the league championship by default, though not without controversy, as the Cardinals had hastily scheduled additional games against teams that had already ended their seasonsnote , and one of their opponents used high-school players to fill out its roster. To his credit, Cards owner Chris O'Brien refused to accept the championship, but his successor, Charles Bidwill, claimed the title after he took ownership of the team in 1933.
  • There are multiple cases in the Little League World Series of teams being posthumously stripped of any wins and titles they earned because it was discovered afterwards that one or more players on the team were ineligible (either too old or living outside the proscribed geographic area). This has included forfeiting regional titles (2001), US titles (2014), and World Series titles (1992).
  • A frequent Olympic Games occurrence. Individuals or teams found to have cheated are stripped of their medal or placement and whoever was behind them is moved up, no matter how long ago the fraud occurred—in 2010, the US Women's Gymnastics Team of 2000 was awarded the bronze medal after it was discovered that one of the gymnasts on the Chinese team was underage.
  • Averted with the 1994 US Women's Figure Skating Championship. After winner Tonya Harding pled guilty to hindering prosecution regarding the attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan, the USFSA stripped her of the title but opted to leave the spot blank rather than advance everyone who finished behind her.
  • Former NFL Quarterback Tony Romo entered a qualifier for the Golf Tour, a developmental tour for the Professional Golfers Association. He and 3 others originally missed the cut by 1 position, but a golfer who would have otherwise made the cut signed an erronous scorecard and was disqualified, allowing Romo and those 3 others to advance to the next stage.
  • Has happened several times in Formula One, but most notably in the infamous 1989 Japanese Grand Prix, where the disqualification affected both the outcome of the race and the Driver's Championship. Brazilian world champion and McLaren driver Ayrton Senna needed to win this race and the Australian Grand Prix to win the championshipnote . Several laps before the end of the race, both Prost and Senna came together at the final chicane with Prost deciding to call it a day and Senna frantically trying to get the marshalls to push-start him away from his dangerous position. Senna would take the chequered ahead of Benetton's Alessandro Nannini, but would be disqualified before the podium proceedings for having driven down the escape road and missed the chicanenote . Thus Alain Prost won the Driver's Championship while Alessandro Nannini won his first and only Grand Prix win, before his F1 career was cut short by a helicopter accident that nearly cost him his right arm.


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