Marathon runner stripped of medal after he caught a bus to the finish line
Runner Rob Sloan claimed third place in the Kielder Marathon after completing the 26.2 mile course in an impressive time of 2:51:00.
But suspicions were raised by fellow runners bemused that they had not seen Sloan pass them during Sunday’s race.
After initially denying any wrongdoing, Sloan admitted to hopping onto a bus at the 20-mile mark because he was feeling tired. He then re-emerged from a wooded area of the course and picked up the bronze medal.
Witnesses reported seeing him hide behind a tree until the first and second placed runners went past, then rejoining the race behind them.
The 31-year-old now faces dismissal from his club, Sunderland Harriers, and could be banned from taking part in future marathons.
Steve Cram, the former world record holder and organiser of the race in Kielder Water, Northumberland, said: “He was the only runner in the whole of the race who ran the second half quicker than the first half.”
Sloan, a former Army mechanic from Downhill, Sunderland, was seen boasting to reporters minutes after completing the event. He described the race as “absolutely, unbelievably tough”.
When his placing was brought into doubt, he was indignant.
“I’m upset and angry that someone wants to cast these aspersions. It’s laughable, is what it is,” he insisted.
However, after organisers launched an investigation, he confessed to hitching a ride.
The bus was one of 12 laid on to ferry spectators around the lakeside course, which has been dubbed “Britain’s most beautiful marathon”.
A statement from the organisers said: “The athlete who was disqualified on Sunday after initially placing third has admitted that he failed to complete the whole course of 26.2 miles.
“Rob Sloan of Sunderland Harriers had apparently made the decision to withdraw from the race at approximately 20 miles due to fatigue and after returning to the Leaplish Park area he decided to run the closing section of the course and crossed the finish line in third place.
“This was rightly questioned by several witnesses including the rightful third place finisher, Steven Cairns of Peebles, Scotland, who has been awarded the prize.”
Sloan won a 10k race on Saturday and that result appears to hold firm.
He joined Sunderland Harriers a few months ago. Ann Lillie, club treasurer and vice-president, said: “It’s a bit of a shock. We have a good reputation and obviously this has brought the club into disrepute.
“It’s not the kind of advertising we need. We’ll be discussing Rob’s future when the executive committee meets next week.”
The runner later awarded the bronze medal, Steven Cairns, was one of those who shared their suspicions with organisers.
Writing on Facebook, he said: “I was third the whole way but somehow I crossed the line and was given fourth! He has stolen my glory and my moment on the podium.
“I started to doubt myself as he was adamant he had gone past me. I could understand him taking the goody bag and the t-shirt but to do the press interview claiming he was third…”
In 2009, Anthony Gaskell, 69, became the fastest pensioner to run the London Marathon when he finished in a record three hours and five minutes.
However, it emerged later that he took a short cut that knocked 10 miles off the course and his name was removed from the results.