Sunderland runner’s bus trip to finish line is one of several scandals in road racing history
A runner who crossed the line third in a marathon last weekend was subsequently disqualified for jumping the course.
Rob Sloan, a new member of Sunderland Harriers, was quoted in the press denying accusations of cheating at the Salomon Kielder Marathon, yet he later admitted to not having completed the course.
The controversy emerged after Annadale Striders’ Steve Cairns, who was eventually awarded third place, was told after finishing that he was fourth, despite knowing throughout the race that he was in third.
Cairns, a leading Northern Ireland runner who is among the top veterans in Britain, later told Athletics Weekly: “I originally informed the organisers, who had also been told by two other people that he had been seen getting on a bus saying he had an injury and had been seen getting dropped off near the finish! He was then seen hiding behind a tree and rejoining the race.”
He added: “My prize will get forwarded to me, but he has stolen my glory and my moment on the podium!”
Sloan, who had legitimately won the Salomon Kielder 10km in 38:10 the day before, told the Sunderland Echo in an article published Monday: “I categorically deny this accusation. I ran the whole race. I have been in touch with the organisers saying I have proof that I ran the complete course. I was wearing my Garmin and that covers every stride I ran.”
However, organisers later released a statement confirming the disqualification and saying that Sloan had “apparently made the decision to withdraw from the race at approximately 20 miles due to fatigue and after returning to the Leaplish Park area he decided to run the closing section of the course and crossed the finish line in third place.”
Sloan isn’t the first runner to attempt to cheat his way to success on the roads. Here’s a look at some of the others…
When Rosie Ruiz was the first woman home at the 1980 Boston Marathon, it appeared a new star had emerged as she had broken the course record with 2:31:56. But in the aftermath of the race, her rise from obscurity seemed too good to be true. The other top finishers did not recall seeing her at all in the race, but the most damning evidence came from two witnesses who saw Ruiz burst out of a crowd of spectators just half a mile from the finish. Days later she was disqualified and her gold medal was passed on to the rightful winner, Jacqueline Gareau.
The Comrades Marathon is known for being one of the toughest races in the world. A 56-mile run between the South African cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg, it is the world’s oldest ultramarathon. At the 1999 edition of the race, brothers Sergio and Fika Motsoeneng almost pulled off the perfect racing deception by exchanging places with each other at half way during a toilet stop, eventually finishing ninth overall. But their plan was exposed when it was noticed in the post-race footage that the brothers wore their watches on different wrists. Sergio Motsoeneng is still running to this day, although he is currently serving a two-month suspension after testing positive for nandrolone.
At last year’s London Marathon, 69-year-old Anthony Gaskell finished first in his age category and was due to receive a plaque to mark the achievement. But keen observers looked in to his splits after the race and saw that he had covered the second 20km section in around 41 minutes – far faster than the world record for the distance. When confronted, Gaskell revealed that he took a short-cut to the finish line after picking up an injury and was completely unaware that a fuss was being made over his finishing time. “I have been called a cheat and disqualified from a race I never claimed to have won,” he said. “I simply walked through a short cut to the end of the course where my belongings were waiting for me. I didn’t bother to check the website for the final standings because I knew I had dropped out.”
Perhaps the biggest organised cheating en masse occured at last year’s Xiamen Marathon in China. One particular school from the Shandong province appeared to do particularly well in the race. Initially there were fears that Ma Junren had taken up a job at the school, but the real reason was not quite so sinister. Around 30 students who finished in the top 100 in the race were found to have either hitched a lift or passed their timing chip on to faster runners. The reason being that any students who completed the marathon in less than 2:34 could add extra points to their gaokao – China’s highly competitive university entrance exam.
A politician involved in scandal? As difficult as it may be to believe, these things happen. After a humiliating defeat in Mexico’s presidential election in 2006, Roberto Madrazo rebounded by winning the over-55 category at the Berlin Marathon with a time of 2:41:12. But it wasn’t just the fact that he had little background in running that made his time so unbelievable, it was the fact that he was pictured jogging across the finish line while wearing a wind breaker, a hat, and skin-tight running pants – far too much clothing for a person who had just run 26.2 miles barely breaking a sweat. Post-race splits showed that he covered a nine-mile section in 21 minutes – just outside two-minute-mile pace.