The organisers said on Monday a growing number of concerned runners had alleged that other participants intended to bend the rules at the ‘down’run between Pietermaritzburg and Durban on May 29.
“We had no option but to raise our concerns with KwaZulu-Natal Athletics (KZNA) who have agreed to partner with us in putting a stop to this unsportsmanlike conduct,” said CMA general manager Chris Fisher.
The joint initiative would make use of additional technologies to highlight irregularities. Race officials, marshals, volunteers and 20 000 entrants were all encouraged to be on the lookout for anyone who did not abide by the rules of the annual event, and additional officials would be deployed along the route. Some clubs had supplied the organisers with names of individuals they expected were planning to cheat.
“We understand that this is a tough and demanding race that requires a lot of training and hard work,” Fisher said.
“It is for this reason that the integrity of those runners who honourably complete the Comrades Marathon needs to be safeguarded.” A number of elite Comrades runners had been disqualified in recent years, most recently ninth-placed Sandile Ngunuza who was stripped of his gold medal for a doping violation last season, but cheating was more rife among the masses of amateur participants.
Potential transgressions included not running the full route distance, running with another entrant’s race number and supplying false qualifying information. A total of 31 non-elite athletes were flagged for alleged cheating at the 2013 edition of the prestigious ultra-marathon, after Mark Dowdeswell, a mathematical statistics lecturer at Wits, discovered suspicious split times which revealed significant irregularities.
Comrades later confirmed that 14 runners had been disqualified for not covering the full race distance. They were removed from the official results and ordered to return their medals. If runners did not register a time at every mat this year – via the race’s chip timing system – Fisher said the organisers would conduct relevant probes.
“This year, thanks to the tip-offs, we have some names which we will watch carefully,” he said.
“If we catch them and they are found guilty, we will name and shame them.”