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Two drug cheats at Austin Marathon, two very different stories

Critics commented on the contrast between how the race treated former cyclist Lance Armstrong, who was fundraising for cancer, and Mary Akor, who displayed bizarre behaviour and was ultimately disqualified

Lance Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for doping in 2012, was not the only drug cheat at this year’s Austin Marathon on February 17. Nigerian-American runner Mary Akor, who was banned from competition for two years in 2013, provoked controversy after trying to prevent the eventual winner, Heather Lieberg (who won in 2:40:09), from passing her. In contrast to Armstrong, who was feted for his fundraising efforts, Akor was summarily DQ’d after her second-place finish.

RELATED: Lance Armstrong runs 3:02 marathon in Austin

Akor tested positive for the bronchodilator clenbuterol at a marathon in Mexico in 2012. She appears at marathons with some frequency, most recently finishing second at the Miami Marathon on January 27. Akor became an American citizen in 2004.

What wasn’t clear was whether Akor was disqualified in Austin for elbowing Lieberg, for having cheated in the past, for obscuring her bib (which was covered by a long-sleeved top throughout the race), or simply to prevent her from claiming prize money. (Observers speculated that Akor might have obscured her bib to avoid being DQ’d earlier, since the Austin Marathon has a policy of not giving prize money to anyone with a past doping conviction. Akor didn’t even try to enter as an elite, presumably for this reason. As a result, Lieberg had no idea who she was while they were battling for position on the course.) In the video shot by FloTrack below, coverage of Akor v. Lieberg begins at the 1:18 mark, then again at 1:38:44. 

RELATED: Three-time BMO Vancouver Marathon winner fails doping test

On their podcast, LetsRun commentators discussed the contrast between how Armstrong (who provoked the biggest doping scandal in cycling history) and Akor were treated at the race. “They’re banning one woman, and they’re using the other guy as inspiration?” co-founder Robert Johnson asks at the podcast’s 55:35 mark.

Akor is a three-time winner of the BMO Vancouver Marathon (in 2004, 2008 and 2009). She finished second in 2012. 

Armstrong was fundraising through a program called Charity Chaser, starting at the very back of the pack and raising money based on the number of people he passed. He finished 58th overall, passing almost 3,000 other runners, with a finishing time of 3:02. Armstrong’s personal best is 2:46:43 from the 2007 TCS New York City Marathon.

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