They've Gone Down in History for Their 1999 Running Ruse

Sergio and Arnold Motsoeneng infamously cheated during the Comrades
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 28, 2023 6:00 AM CST
Their Tale of Ultramarathon Cheating Just Won't Die
Stock photo of non-cheating runners.   (Getty Images / lzf)

Google "Sergio Motsoeneng," or the name of his brother Arnold, and you'll enter a portal into a scandal. The South African brothers' story of cheating in a 1999 ultramarathon has persisted as one of the most lasting in running history, writes Ryan Lenora Brown for Insider, as Brown revisits the race and talks to the men now. It's hard to understate the importance of the 56-mile Comrades: It's the world's largest and longest-running ultramarathon, and "when a global boycott targeting (South Africa's) racist apartheid government barred the country from big international sporting events like the Olympics and the World Cup," the Comrades emerged as one of the nation's most-watched races; its winners became stars. And in 1999, 21-year-old Sergio Motsoeneng finished ninth.

That netted him only $1,000—not the then-$16,400 top prize or the $164,000 bonus his running club was offering—but it was still a shocking finish. He was a "no-name runner" and this was his first time running the Comrades. Weeks later, the truth emerged via a side-by-side photo comparison: Runner 13018 was Arnold at the race's start. Halfway through, the brothers ducked into a portable toilet together; Sergio put on Arnold's clothes and finished the race. The brothers look similar, but not identical. But one forgotten detail proved the cheat: Arnold wore a yellow watch on his left wrist, while Sergio ran with a pink watch on his right. More than 20 years later, the brothers were willing to talk to Brown about it, and about fresh allegations of cheating that dogged Sergio a decade later. (Read the full story here.)

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