In a shocking turn of events, Scottish ultra-marathon runner Joasia Zakrzewski has been slapped with a 12-month ban by UK Athletics for using a car during the GB Ultras Manchester to Liverpool 50-mile race.
The scandal unfolded after tracking data revealed that Zakrzewski was absent from the race for a significant 2.5 miles.
To make matters worse, she brazenly accepted a third-place trophy despite using a vehicle during the event.
The 47-year-old, who previously represented Scotland in the 2014 Commonwealth Games, has a notable running career, including winning a 48-hour race in Taipei and claiming victory in a 24-hour race in Australia in 2020.
However, her accomplishments are now overshadowed by the controversy surrounding her recent race in the UK.
Zakrzewski’s admission that she had jumped into a friend’s car during the race on was met with skepticism.
She argued that she informed race marshals about her decision to withdraw due to feeling unwell, portraying her actions as non-competitive.
However, the Independent Disciplinary Panel of UK Athletics rejected her explanation, stating that her claims were contrary to the evidence provided by marshals.
The panel found that Zakrzewski had covered approximately 2.5 miles in a car, with GPS data indicating that one mile was completed in an astonishingly brief one minute and 40 seconds.
The runner’s attempt to defend herself by attributing her actions to fatigue and jet lag from her recent arrival in the UK was deemed inadequate by the disciplinary panel.
Even more concerning was Zakrzewski’s acceptance of the third-place trophy at the end of the race, a move that violated the principles of fair play and sportsmanship.
The panel pointed out that she should not have accepted the trophy if she was completing the race on a non-competitive basis, and her failure to return it promptly raised additional concerns.
Mel Sykes, who was rightfully handed the third-place position after Zakrzewski’s disqualification, expressed her dismay on social media.
She emphasized how Zakrzewski’s actions not only undermined the integrity of the race but also disrespected the race organizers, fellow competitors, and the spirit of fair competition.
The panel’s decision to ban Zakrzewski from participating in any UK Athletics licensed races, representing Great Britain, or engaging in coaching or managing for a year reflects the severity of her breach of conduct.
Despite Zakrzewski’s plea that she never intended to cheat and that her actions were a result of a “massive error,” the panel highlighted her responsibility as an experienced athlete to uphold the rules.
This scandal serves as a stark reminder of the importance of integrity in sports and the consequences athletes face when those principles are compromised.
Joasia Zakrzewski’s once illustrious running career is now tarnished by a cheating scandal that will undoubtedly leave a lasting impact on her reputation within the running community.