Honduran Iván Zarco Álvarez and Spanish Camilo Santiago were suspended for six months after the latter wore his rival’s number in the 2021 marathon in Dresden, Germany, the Athletics Integrity Unit (UIA) reported on Friday.
Zarco suggested that Santiago wear his bib, which has an identification number printed on it, during the race, since the Honduran had to miss the race due to physical problems.
Zarco subsequently contacted the World Athletics Association to request that the result of the marathon be attributed to Santiago.
“The fact that Mr. Zarco and Mr. Santiago exchanged numbers and were caught in a public forum shows that their conduct was unreasonable and brought the sport into disrepute,” the UIA said in a statement.
“The exchange of numbers was an intentional agreement to alter Mr. Zarco’s results in the marathon (…) especially in circumstances in which Mr. Zarco should have known that the result in question would have been a Honduran national record,” added.
The incident, which became public after Spanish website Soy Corredor published an article about the switch in March 2021, prompted Santiago to tweet an apology, noting that he did not intend to cheat.
Both declared then in the UIA investigation that Santiago’s bag (containing his bib number) disappeared just before the race and that they explained to the organizers that he would run with Zarco’s bib number.
However, the marathon organizers claimed that there were bib printing facilities at the start point and that “no official would have indicated that an athlete could exchange bib numbers.”
The early admission of the athletes and their low level of international competition meant that they benefited from a shorter period of suspension, of six months, compared to the one-year sanction that the UIA would have requested before a Disciplinary Court.