EL PASO, Texas -- Organizers of the El Paso Marathon said Wednesday they were stripping this year's men's winner of his title and banning him from future races after it was discovered he cheated.
Joe Morales was declared the marathon winner this past Sunday, but officials said it's now been determined that another runner was actually wearing Morales' number - and he didn't compete.
"It was brought to our attention by one of the participants who traveled back to Austin," said race director Mike Coulter. "I received an email that stated they had seen a social media post of our overall male winner for the marathon - and stated that he had run the run and won the race with someone else's number, which is not allowed."
As a result, Morales was disqualified and both men are now banned from ever participating in future competitions at the El Paso Marathon. Coulter declined to publicly name the other man involved.
But that other man who posed as Morales reached out to ABC-7 with an apology, although he asked to remain anonymous: "I do apologize to not just the running community, but the community of El Paso. and unfortunately this is a big piece of humble pie."
The mystery runner said his friend Morales had registered for the marathon well in advance but then discovered he was going to be unable to attend. The replacement said he couldn't afford to enter but took Morales' bib number to use the El Paso Marathon as a training opportunity; he said he never expected he'd win the race.
Wednesday's developments came less than 24 hours after race officials had said they were looking into allegations of possible cheating.
Organizers wrote in a social media post on Tuesday evening, "We are aware of a discrepancy in the results. Any runner found to have misled officials, by wearing another's bib or having taken an inappropriate action such as allowing another to wear a registrant's bib, will result in disqualification as well as a permanent banning of the runner."
Hundreds participated in Sunday’s event, which was the 14th year for the marathon. It started in downtown El Paso then headed east on Montana past Pershing before ending at the Southwest University ballpark.