Marathon Runner Receives Ban After Using a Car to Finish in 3rd Place
A marathon runner who accepted a trophy for her third-place victory earlier this year has been labeled a cheater, the BBC reports. Joasia Zakrzewski, a 47-year-old Scotland native, took the medal in the 50-mile 2023 Manchester to Liverpool Ultras50 marathon on April 7.
However, tracking data showed that Zakrzewski used a car to travel roughly 2.5 miles in the middle of the race. When confronted, the athlete admitted to officials that she had hitched a ride, but hadn’t initially copped to it because she was “embarrassed.” She later tried to justify the cheating by explaining that her participation in the race was “non-competitive” in nature.
A U.K. Athletics (UKA) disciplinary panel pushed back on that reasoning, though. “The claimant had collected the trophy at the end of the race, something which she should have not done if she was completing the race on a non-competitive basis,” the panel said in their review of the matter.
“[Zakrzewski] also did not seek to return the trophy in the week following the race,” the report continued. “Even if she was suffering from brain fog on the day of the race, she had a week following the race to realize her actions and return the trophy, which she did not do. Finally, she posted about the race on social media, and this did not disclose that she had completed the race on a non-competitive basis.”
During a June interview by UKA officials, Zakrzewski admitted that a friend had picked her up along the course and given her a brief ride. When the driver encouraged Zakrzewski to finish the race on foot, the runner noted she would be doing so non-competitively. Zakrzewski waived the opportunity to cross-examine officials or present evidence exonerating herself.
In its decision, the panel noted that while such an offense would normally incur a two-year suspension, Zakrzewski was given only a 12-month term due to a series of mitigating factors. “She has fully cooperated with the investigation [and] has been subjected to a trial by social media,” the verdict reads in part.
Zakrzewski had previously found much success as a runner. She won silver in 2011 and bronze in 2014 and 2014 running for Great Britain in the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) World Championships. Last February, she made headlines at the Taipei Ultramarathon, where she won the 48-hour race with a record-setting distance of 255 miles.
Zakrzewski’s misstep seems mild in comparison to another marathon cheating scandal from earlier in the year, when the Mexico Marathon disqualified 11,000 participants for cutting the course. In that case, the cheaters used a variety of techniques, including hopping buses and bikes, as well as calling family members for rides.