British ultra-marathoner banned from racing after riding in car during 50-mile race

UK Athletics banned an ultramarathoner from racing for 12 months after she admitted to riding in a car during a race this year.

Joasia Zakrzewski, 47, admitted to riding in a car during a part of the Manchester to Liverpool Ultra on April 7, according to a disciplinary panel decision document from UK Athletics. The decision document, dated Oct. 9, said Zakrzewski did not comply with the UKA Disciplinary Rules’ code of conduct for senior athletes.

The panel banned Zakrzewski from participating in any UKA-licensed races and from representing Great Britain in any events for a year. It also banned her from coaching, officiating or managing for the same period.

Zakrzewski said she was not in the proper mindset the day of the 50-mile race, causing her to act improperly and collect a third-place trophy, according to the decision document.

“As stated, 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,” Zakrzewski wrote in a Sept. 28 letter to the UKA panel overseeing her case.

Zakrzewski did not admit to breaking the UKA’s Code of Conduct because, she said, she was never trying to cover up the truth of what she did.

In a June 8 interview detailed in the decision document, Zakrzewski said that she told marshals she had been in her friend’s car and that, when she was encouraged to finish the race, she said she would do so noncompetitively.

Event marshals disputed that account, saying she told them she was injured and had discussed pulling out of the race but had been encouraged to continue, according to the decision. Marshals said she decided to continue competitively, the decision said.

The marshals also said she never informed them she rode in a car, according to the decision.

Zakrzewski did not fully admit to what she had done until she was pressed by a race organizer, according to the document. She said she was embarrassed but “chose not to disclose what had happened rather than embarrass herself,” according to the decision.

She also posted on social media about the race without mentioning that she ran it noncompetitively, according to the document.

Zakrzewski maintained that she never hid the fact that she rode in a car and that it was not her intention to cheat, but the UKA rejected her argument.

“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 wrote in its decision.

Zakrzewski told BBC Scotland in April that she was feeling unwell when she crossed the finish line and made a “massive error” in accepting the trophy. She said she wanted to apologize to Mel Sykes, the finisher later awarded third place, for what she said “wasn’t malicious, it was miscommunication.”

“I would never purposefully cheat, and this was not a target race, but I don’t want to make excuses,” she told the BBC.

Zakrzewski set a world record in February when she ran 255.6 miles in 48 hours at the Taipei Ultramarathon. The record was broken in March.

Rebecca Cohen

Rebecca Cohen is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.

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