Two elite runners suspended after their marathon bib-swap breaks record

Two elite runners suspended after their marathon bib-swap breaks record

When runners sign up for marathon months in advance and a last-minute injury prevents them from making it to the start, it isn’t uncommon that they swap or sell their race bib–but it’s still against the rules at most marathons. Ivan Zarco of Honduras did just that before the start of the 2021 Dresden Marathon, but the person he gave it to, Camilo Santiago of Spain, ended up breaking Honduras’s national record of 2:17:36. Now, both men have been suspended for six months by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) for bib-swapping.

According to the report, Zarco determined he was unable to run because of plantar fasciitis only days before the race. He suggested to Santiago (his training partner for him) that he should take part using Zarco’s bib, which had his identification on it. The Spaniard went on to run 2:17:36, breaking the previous Honduras national record by 13 seconds.

The incident went public after the Spanish website I’m a runner wrote an article about the bib swap in March 2021, which prompted Santiago, who has a personal best of 2:09:56, to tweet an apology, pointing out that he meant no harm. Zarco later contacted World Athletics to request that the marathon result be awarded to Santiago.

“The fact that Zarco and Santiago exchanged bib numbers and were caught demonstrates that their conduct was unreasonable and brought the sport into dishonour,” the AIU said in a statement.

According to the AIU, both runners then testified that Santiago had his bib number in his bag, but it had disappeared just before the race, explaining to the organizers that Santiago would run with Zarco’s bib. However, that theory was debunked by race officials, who said there were lost bib facilities at the start for elite runners.

Santiago and Zarco training in Getafe, Spain prior to the 2021 Dresden Marathon. Photo: Club Polideportivo Getafe

The result of 2:17.36 will not count, and both have been given a six-month sanction from the AIU for their actions.

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