Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist

Cracking down on cheats: 25 athletes banned from Comrades Marathon

All 25 runners, who supplied false qualifying information, have been suspended from the race until 2026.

Organisers of the Comrades Marathon insist they will not put up with any form of cheating, after cracking down on Monday on runners who had given themselves an unfair advantage ahead of the world’s largest ultra-marathon this weekend.

Though elite runners have been caught cheating over the years – mostly for anti-doping rule violations and even once, in a bizarre scheme played out between twin brothers, for running in relay – but the majority of the cheating in the mass field does not occur among the top athletes. It happens further back, where social runners have found their own ways to make things a little easier.

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Amateur runners have been caught taking shortcuts or lifts in vehicles, but it is often before the race that the skulduggery begins, and many have been accused of submitting false qualifying information. This is done either to enter the race without achieving the required qualifying time or to improve seedings so entrants can start further ahead in the mass field, which can save significant time at the start.

Runners disqualified

The Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) said yesterday it was putting its foot down, however, announcing that 25 entrants had been disqualified six days before the annual race in KwaZulu-Natal.

“Runners found to have been cheating in any way, be it via submitting false qualifying details or in the race itself, are tarnishing the reputation of the sport and the Comrades Marathon Association, as well as disrespecting fellow athletes,” said race director Rowyn James.

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All 25 runners, who supplied false qualifying information, would not be allowed to take part this weekend and had also been suspended from the race for the next two years.

While the disqualified individuals were not named, the CMA did unveil the clubs around SA where they held memberships.

‘No tolerance’

“The CMA will not tolerate cheating in any form,” James said.

“It is incumbent upon every athlete to honour the ethical code and ethos of the sport. We promote fair sport and to this end are continuing with investigations into other alleged transgressors, the outcome of which will be announced in due course.”

The 96th edition of the Comrades Marathon, an 87km ‘down’ run between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, will be held on Sunday. More than 20 000 people have entered the race.

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