A Scottish ultramarathon champion has been suspended for a year after it was found that she used a car during an 80km race and then accepted the third place trophy.
Joasia Zakrzewski (47) took part in the Manchester to Liverpool Ultra 50 event on 7 April this year. However, it was later determined that she traveled in a car for approximately 4 km (2.5 miles) after mapping data showed that she covered a mile (1.6 km) in just one minute and 40 seconds.
The doctor, who lives near Sydney, told the BBC that during the marathon – near the halfway mark – she experienced excruciating pain. She had flown from Australia the day before to take part in the ultramarathon and reportedly experienced flight sickness.
She accepted a lift in a friend’s car to the next checkpoint with the intention of telling officials that she was withdrawing from the race.
“When I got to the checkpoint I told them I was withdrawing and that I was in the car, but they just said ‘you’ll hate yourself if you stop now’.
“After that I agreed to continue with the race in a non-competitive way,” says Zakrzewski.
But when she crossed the finish line, she was handed a medal and a trophy.
“I made a big mistake accepting the trophy and should have returned it. I was tired and felt sick. I throw my hands in the air. I should have returned the trophy and not posed for the photos, but I felt bad and wasn’t thinking clearly,” she says.
Zakrzewski says she regrets not telling officials at the end of the race that she wasn’t running competitively, but added: “It wasn’t malicious, it was just miscommunication.”
Wayne Drinkwater, GB-Ultras’ director, says he received information that an athlete gained an “unsporting, competitive advantage during part of the event”.
The third place was later awarded to another participant.