British ultra-marathon runner Joasia Zakrzewski has been handed a 12-month suspension after it was revealed that she used a car for part of a 50-mile race earlier this year. She also accepted a trophy for finishing third, according to UK Athletics.
The 47-year-old participated in the 2023 GB Ultras Manchester to Liverpool race in April. She admitted to sport’s authorities that she entered a friend’s car during the race. Zakrzewski claimed that she used the vehicle after informing marshals that she was withdrawing from the event due to injury and was participating on a non-competitive basis. She also said that she accepted the trophy for finishing in third place only because she was disoriented after having arrived on a flight from Australia the previous night.
“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 letter to the panel.
GPS evidence showed that Zakrzewski had traveled about 2.5 miles in a car during the race, which included one mile covered in just one minute and 40 seconds. However, UK Athletics stated that Zakrzewski’s version of events were “contrary to the evidence of the marshals.” According to the disciplinary panel, Zakrzewski only disclosed the use of the car after she was directly challenged by race organizers. The panel also stated that she “sought to defend herself by claiming she was embarrassed, but ultimately she chose not to disclose what had happened rather than embarrass herself.”
The panel said that Zakrzewski’s claim of suffering from “brain fog” was taken into account but noted that she “had ample opportunity to remedy the situation which she failed to do.” Zakrzewski has competed internationally for British long-distance athletics teams on several occasions and set a 48-hour world record in February.
Originally from Scotland, Zakrzewski now lives in Sydney, Australia. She has set a number of records throughout her career, including the Scottish 24-hour record, the British 200-kilometer and the Scottish 100-mile records.
The suspension serves as a setback for Zakrzewski’s career and raises questions about her integrity as a professional athlete. The incident has sparked a debate within the running community, with many expressing disappointment in her actions. Some have called for a reassessment of her previous race results and records to ensure that there were no other instances of misconduct.
As a prominent figure in the ultra-marathon community, Zakrzewski’s suspension serves as a reminder of the importance of upholding the highest standards of honesty and fair play in sports. It also highlights the need for athletes to take responsibility for their actions and conduct themselves with integrity both on and off the racecourse.