A leading British ultra-marathon runner has been banned for 12 months by a UK Athletics disciplinary panel for using a car during a 50-mile race and then accepting a trophy for third place.
Joasia Zakrzewski admitted that she had jumped into her friend’s vehicle during the 2023 GB Ultras Manchester to Liverpool race on 7 April, but claimed she only did so after telling marshals that she was injured and was no longer competing.
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The 47-year-old, who finished 14th in the 2014 Commonwealth Games marathon and set a new world 48-hour distance record of 255.668 miles in February, had also denied deliberately cheating. Instead, she said that arriving from Australia the night before had left her unable to think straight, and had led to her wrongly accepting a trophy at the end of the race.
However, that explanation was rejected by a UKA disciplinary panel who have now banned Zakrzewski from competing in any UKA licensed races, representing Great Britain, or coaching or managing for a year, after finding her guilty of breaching the UKA code of conduct for senior athletes.
In a written decision, the panel said that Zakrzewski’s claims were “contrary to the evidence of the marshals, evidence which the respondent did not seek to challenge or contest, by way of cross-examination at the hearing”.
Evidence showed that Zakrzewski – who has competed for GB numerous times in ultra-distance events, won multiple world 100km medals, and managed GB teams – had travelled around 2.5 miles in a car. According to GPS data, one of those miles was covered in one minute and 40 seconds.
In a letter to the panel, Zakrzewski wrote: “I accept my actions on the day that I did travel in a car and then later completed the run, crossing the finish line and inappropriately receiving a medal and trophy, which I did not return immediately as I should have done”.
However, she continued to insist that she had told the marshals that she was injured and had decided to keep going on a non-competitive basis. The marshals, however, told the panel a different story.
They said that while Zakrzewski had talked to them about withdrawing, she had been persuaded to continue “and when doing so … this was on a competitive basis”. They also denied that she had informed them that she had completed part of the course in a car.
The panel also noted that Zakrzewski had only disclosed using the vehicle when challenged by the race organiser. “The respondent sought to defend this by claiming she was embarrassed, but ultimately she chose not to disclose what had happened rather than embarrass herself,” it said.
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“Further the claimant had collected the trophy at the end of the race, something which she should have not done if she was completing the race on a non-competitive basis.”
The panel said it had taken Zakrzewski’s claims about her state of mind into account, but pointed out that she “had ample opportunity to remedy the situation which she failed to do”.
“Even if she was suffering from brain fog on the day of the race, she had a week following the race to realise her actions and return the trophy, which she did not do,” it said.
“Finally, she posted about the race on social media, and this did not disclose that she had completed the race on a non-competitive basis.”