Scottish ultramarathon runner Joasia Zakrzewski has been disqualified from a 50-mile race after traveling in a car for a section of the course.
Zakrzewski, who initially finished as the third woman in the race, was competing in the GB Ultras Manchester to Liverpool event in England’s northwest on April 7 when organizers said she gained an “unsporting, competitive advantage” which would have compromised the integrity of the results.
The 47-year-old Zakrzewski told the BBC she made a “massive error” in accepting the third-place trophy and “should have handed it back,” adding that she was “tired and jet lagged and felt sick” during the race having arrived from Australia the night before.
She said she became lost around the halfway mark and her leg became sore, after which she accepted a ride in a friend’s car to the next checkpoint, according to the BBC.
“When I got to the checkpoint, I told them [race marshals] I was pulling out and that I had been in the car and they said, ‘You will hate yourself if you stop,’” Zakrzewski told the BBC, explaining how she agreed to carry on in a “non-competitive way.”
CNN has been unable to contact Zakrzewski, a doctor who has competed internationally for Scotland and Great Britain. Her friend and fellow runner, Adrian Stott, said he wasn’t able to offer further comment on the event.
In a statement, GB Ultras race director Wayne Drinkwater said: “The issue has been investigated and, having reviewed the data from our race tracking system, gpx data, statements provided from our event team, other competitors and from the participant herself, we can confirm that a runner has now been disqualified from the event having taken vehicle transport during part of the route.”
Drinkwater added that a report of the disqualification has been submitted to the Trail Running Association (TRA) and that the matter has now been passed to the TRA and UK Athletics as regulatory bodies.
‘It wasn’t malicious’
Mel Sykes has since been awarded third place in the women’s category of the race, which she said was “great news for me” but “bad news for sportsmanship.”
Writing on Twitter, Sykes said: “No race director wants this to happen at one of their events and the team at GB Ultras have been fantastic at carrying out their investigation. The 3rd place trophy is being returned to them, then will be posted out to me.
“The sad thing in all this is that it completely takes the piss out of the race organisers, fellow competitors and fair sport.”
Zakrzewski said she’s “devastated” by what happened at the race and apologized to Sykes.
“It wasn’t malicious, it was miscommunication,” she told the BBC, adding that she regretted not telling officials at the end of the event that she hadn’t been running competitively.
“I would never purposefully cheat and this was not a target race, but I don’t want to make excuses.
“Mel didn’t get the glory at the finish and I’m really sorry she didn’t get that.”
CNN has contacted the TRA but did not immediately receive a response. UK Athletics said it was aware of the incident and that it would likely be managed at a national governing body level.