GB Ultras race organisers deny knowing ultrarunner pulled out as she blames ‘miscommunication’ for using car

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Ultrarunner Joasia Zakrzewski said she told organisers she was pulling out of the race after travelling in a car, which the organisers denied.

An ultrarunner who was disqualified for using a car during a recent high-profile race has broken her silence, saying she would never ‘purposely cheat’ and blaming it on ‘miscommunication’.

Dr Joasia Zakrzewski, a record-breaking athlete, finished third in the 2023 GB Ultras Manchester to Liverpool 50-mile race earlier this month. However, it was later discovered she had used a car for a 2.5mile stretch of the race thanks to data uploaded to Strava, a running and cycling app.

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In an interview with BBC Scotland, she insisted she accepted a lift from a friend to the next checkpoint after picking up a leg injury. She said: “When I got to the checkpoint, I told them I was pulling out and that I had been in the car.”

Dr Zakrzewski added after a discussion, she decided to carry on in a “non-competitive way”. She said: “I made sure I didn’t overtake the runner in front when I saw her as I didn’t want to interfere with her race.”

However, race organisers have denied claims they were informed about her pulling out of the race due to illness. Race director Wayne Drinkwater said in a statement none of his event team has confirmed this.

He said: “To reaffirm, none of our event team in question, with written statements to confirm this, were aware that Joasia had vehicle transport at any time during the race until we received information after the race from another competitor.

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“If we had been made aware during the race, disqualification from the race would have been immediate at that point.” Despite saying she had pulled out of the race, Dr Zakrzewski went on to collect the third place trophy.

On this, she told the BBC Scotland: “I made a massive error accepting the trophy and should have handed it back. I was tired and jetlagged and felt sick. It wasn’t malicious, it was miscommunication. I would never purposely cheat and this was not a target race, but I don’t want to make excuses.”

Joasia Zakrzewski finished 14th in the 2014 Commonwealth Games marathon (Picture: Kai-Otto Melau/Getty Images)Joasia Zakrzewski finished 14th in the 2014 Commonwealth Games marathon (Picture: Kai-Otto Melau/Getty Images)
Joasia Zakrzewski finished 14th in the 2014 Commonwealth Games marathon (Picture: Kai-Otto Melau/Getty Images)

The 47-year-old has since been stripped of the result, with the case referred to UK Athletics for further investigation. Third place was handed to Mel Sykes, who criticised Dr Zakrzewski for accepting the victory at the end of the race.

She tweeted about the event, saying, "The sad thing about all of this is that it completely takes the **** out of the race organisers, fellow competitors, and fair sport.

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"How can someone who knows they cheated cross a finish line, receive a medal/trophy, and have their picture taken? With all of the data analysis we do these days, it’s also a bloody great tool for situations like this.

“To run 1:40min/miles at 90bpm with 0% cadence, you must be a superwoman. The audacity of uploading the data, complete with a trophy photo, makes this even worse!"

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