In sports, a false start is a disallowed start, usually due to a movement by a participant before (or in some cases after) being signaled or otherwise permitted by the rules to start. Depending on the sport and the event, a false start can result in a penalty against the athlete's or team's field position, a warning that a subsequent false start will result in disqualification, or immediate disqualification of the athlete from further competition.
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False starts are common in racing sports (such as swimming, track, sprinting, and motor sports), where differences are made by fractions of a second and where anxiety to get the best start plays a role in the athletes' behavior.
A race that is started without a false start is referred to as a fair start or clean start.