If the miles behind me could be put into words before you, you would feel my efforts, my struggles, my desires. Most of all you would see my joy. Watch me from afar run the trails and hills and miles upon miles and you will see ...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Old and New Articles about a Comrades Runner

I thought this was a pretty funny story. We've all wanted to do this at some point during a hard race, it's just that we're all not blessed with an identical twin.

TRACK AND FIELD; Deception in Marathon Has Race Officials Seeing Double
Published: July 22, 1999

JOHANNESBURG, July 21— One of the top finishers in South Africa's most famous road race admitted today that he had cheated by running it in relays with his virtually identical brother.

Sergio Motsoeneng, 21 years old, and his brother, Fika, 19, were desperate for prize money, their lawyer said, and gave the $1,000 Sergio won to their father, who lives in Qwa Qwa, a depressed former black homeland, with 11 children. The lawyer added that the family had been on the verge of selling the $85 gold medal Sergio received for finishing in the top 10.

The Comrades Marathon, first run in 1921 by 34 men raising money for a veterans group known as the League of Comrades of the Great War, has grown into South Africa's biggest road race, with nearly 15,000 entrants of all ages. Each year, it reverses direction between two cities, Pietermaritzburg in the Drakensberg Mountains and Durban on the coast.

This year, on June 16, it was the downhill run, which is 89.9 kilometers long (about 56 miles), for which the record is 5 hours 24 minutes 7 seconds. But watching the winner finish is less entertaining than the bitter end of the race. It is considered a great shame to be among the last 1,500 competitors who fail to finish in 11 hours and are ''swept up by the broom wagon,'' sometimes paralyzed by cramps and clawing at the rescue vehicles.

The whole race is covered on national television, and most of the runners finish in the last hour, staggering into the stadium, collapsing at the finish line, crawling or carrying each other over it.

According to an account by the South African Press Association, Nick Bester, a former champion who finished 15th this year, had complained that something was wrong with Sergio Motsoeneng's ninth-place finish. Bester had counted everyone who passed him in the final miles and there was one too many -- and electronic-race records showed Sergio was behind him earlier.

Sergio confessed through his lawyer today after Beeld, an Afrikaans-language newspaper, published pictures of both brothers in the race wearing the same number. They looked very much alike, but their watches were on different hands, and one runner had a scarred shin.

Apparently, Sergio began the race and ducked into a mobile toilet after 45 minutes to change shirts and shoes with Fika. Fika ran the next 30 kilometers, and they changed again at least once. Changing shoes was necessary because microchips in each runner's shoelaces and sensors allowed constant tracking of every entrant. South Africans across the country were able to log on to a Web site and find out exactly where their favorite racers were at any moment.

Clem Harrington, a lawyer who has run in 21 Comrades, said Sergio Motsoeneng was a desperate young man from a poor family. He and his unemployed client, both from the town of Bethlehem, will meet with the Comrades Marathon Association on Saturday to return the medal and negotiate repayment of the $1,000.

This has not been a great year for the Comrades. Motsoeneng is the third runner to be dropped from the list of top-10 finishers. Viktor Zhdanov, from Russia, who finished second, was disqualified after testing positive for ephedrine, and Mahlala (Rasta) Mohloli, the sixth-place finisher and a popular local runner in the same club as as Motsoeneng, tested positive for nandrolone, a strength-building steroid.

The Comrades prize money is so low that it attracts few world-class entrants, but many runners from the former Soviet Union participate and do well.

''This is a tragic story,'' the press association quoted Harrington as saying. ''Hopefully, Sergio will not be lost to the sport because he is a highly talented runner. If he harnessed the energy he put into cheating into rather running the race properly, who knows, he might have finished among the top five.''

'He didn't need to cheat'
Iqbal Khan
May 31 2010 at 01:56PM Get IOL on your
mobile at m.iol.co.za

Sergio Motsoeneng has paid his dues and has started a new life in his road-running career.

The man who finished third in Sunday's 85th edition of the Comrades Marathon was reluctant at first to speak of his antics in 1999 when he was found guilty of cheating after being placed ninth in that year's race.

Motsoeneng twice swopped clothes with his younger brother but was eventually found out after newspaper photographs showed the runners wearing different watches.

"It's been a long time now and I have come through a tough time in life. I have suffered the embarrassment. I'd rather not talk about it as it's in the past," he said on Sunday night after his outstanding run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban's Sahara Stadium Kingsmead.

"I know I should not have done that - I was a young man then and when the idea was thrown at me I went with the flow. It's now history.

"I'm a family man now and I'm a grown man at 33. I realised that one makes mistakes in life. I came through a tough five-year period of suspension and want to look ahead.

"I knew this would crop up again when I got close to winning the race. It has to come back to haunt me but I appeal to all to leave it at that - it's really the past. It's finished and I look ahead all the time."

Cheryl Winn, who was chief executive of the Comrades Marathon Association at the time Motsoeneng was bust, said he should have had faith in his running ability.

"It just goes to show he did not have to do what he did in 1999. He has great ability in running ultra-marathons - his third-place finish proves just that," she said.

Motsoeneng was in his early 20s when he ran the 1999 Comrades and was slapped with a five-year ban by the Comrades Marathon Association. He was also stripped of his ninth place after he admitted cheating.

An investigation was launched after a runner further back in the field complained that Motsoeneng had not overtaken him.

After examining time sheets and data from the computer timing system, race referees initially cleared him of cheating.

The lookalike brothers' plan was only foiled because photographs of the race published in Beeld showed runner number 13018 at one stage wearing a yellow watch on his left wrist. At another stage the runner with that number was wearing a pink watch on his right wrist.

Other photos later revealed Sergio twice swopping clothes with his 19-year-old brother, Arnold, in portable lavatories.

"I was naive at the time. I did not think we would get caught but we did. I lived through hell for the five years - tried to keep my mind on running by helping youngsters and coaching development kids," he said. "I've turned to God and I'm guided by him. I feel I have paid my dues for my mistakes and want to look to the future rather than look back in life."

Motsoeneng returned to road running in the 2006 Soweto Marathon. Last year he finished 29th in the Comrades.

1 comment:

Gary Robbins said...

Wow, what a crazy story, with a happy ending no less!