This was not a photo contest, it was a photojournalism contest.....a significant difference. Some of you seem to have little, if any, knowledge of photojournalistic ethics and practices (not an insult, just an observation). Please allow me to briefly explain as I have more than 20 years experience:
A photojournalist is allowed to use whatever lens, exposure, aperture or shutter speed necessary to help tell the story as the photographer deems necessary. This is the equivalent to the selection of prose used by a writer. These conventions are apparent and fairly well understood by the general public. An exception would apply if the captured scene differs dramatically from the actual scene. For instance, using exposure to make daylight look like night, etc.
As for post-capture processing or darkroom work, of course white balance and exposure corrections are allowed (to correct for film/digital sensor errors) as are simple burning and dodging,as long as they do not alter the image to such a degree that they change feeling, mood or alter reality in a significant way. That was why there was such a fuss when either Time or Newsweek (I forget which) altered O.J. Simpson's cover shot to make the photo look sinister. As these ethical standards are, at least to small degree, subjective, there are grey areas with which photographers must deal with on a daily basis. However, absolutely no altering of image content through cutting/pasting, cloning, filtering, etc is allowed. That didn't seem to happen in this case, though.
As for the topic in question, there is near complete support in photojournalism circles that the photog crossed the line both in general photojournalist ethics and the clearly defined contest rules. Remember, this is NOT a pretty picture contest.
Lastly, the claims that these same results could have obtained in a darkroom is ludicrous. Simply not possible. Period.