FOUR-times Comrades Marathon winner, Alan Robb, who recently completed his 41st Comrades, has been denied his second-place Grand Masters prize – because race officials say his age category tag “was not clearly visible”.
However, Robb, 60, who has photographic proof that he wore the tag during the down run two weeks ago, is flabbergasted.
The decision by KwaZulu-Natal Athletics, which governs athletics in the province, means he did not get the R6 000 prize that goes with second place.
“I am hoping it is just a mistake. My daughter has raised it with them and they are looking into it,” Robb said from his home in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
“If you have a look at the photographs of me running you can see the age category tag. Some of the pictures are taken from angles where you can’t see the tag but there are some where it is clearly visible.
“The most clearly visible picture that proves I had been wearing the tag is the one of me and my daughter at the finish of the race.”
Robb said his age category tags were sewn on the front and back of his vest.
However, Comrades race director, Rowyn James, said he had looked at a photograph of Robb running the race and “I clearly could not see an age category tag on his vest”.
When told that Robb stood by his claim that an age category tag was sewn on his vest, he said: “If this comes from Alan’s own mouth I can’t comment.
“Alan is a distinguished person in Comrades and I don’t think he will say that if it wasn’t true.”
James said, however, that the rules were specific.
“If you want to be in contention for a category prize, then you have to wear your category indicator clearly on your vest. That is what it stipulates. If you don’t wear your category tag, front and back clearly displayed, you don’t qualify,” he said.
“If anyone wants to contest it they have to contest it directly with race officials.”
The chief referee, or the technical delegate of the race, was from KwaZulu-Natal Athletics and not the Comrades Marathon Association, James said.
“We are merely the organisers of the event, we are not the custodians.”
Running legend, Zola Budd, was stripped of her Comrades Marathon age category win because she did not wear her age category tag.
The 48-year-old Budd came seventh, was the first South African in the female top 10, and the first veteran to cross the line.
She had been issued with an international number that had the age category tag on it.
But race officials said a separate number had to be sewn on the athlete’s vest.
Robb’s daughter, Staci Katsivalis, said she had raised the issue with a Comrades official who was going to discuss it with the race officials, but had not heard anything further.
Anand Naicker, KwaZulu-Natal Athletics’s technical delegate for the race, said the age category tag had to be clearly visible and officials had ruled against Robb “accordingly on that basis”.
He said officials would have made a decision on “what was available to them on race day”.
“The rules apply to everybody, and once the results are officially declared anyone can launch an appeal or a protest with the race.
“It then goes to the committee, and after hearing the arguments they will rule accordingly.”
Naicker said he did not know if an official appeal had been raised by Robb.
“You see, a person can complain, which is different from an appeal or a protest...”
Naicker said according to race procedures, an athlete normally had 30 minutes after the results were announced to launch an appeal process.
There was, however, the possibility of objecting to the race a few weeks later.
“Technically, a person’s time frame has lapsed as well. But that is due process – you can’t do anything about that.
“Normally you have 30 minutes after the results on Sunday to appeal.”
Robb, who runs for Germiston Callies Harriers in Gauteng, completed the race in 8hr 43min 20sec, behind Grand Master Peter Erasmus, who clocked 8.08.36.
Race officials, however, awarded second place to Sam Damane, who finished in 8.58.38.
Robb, who at just 22 won his first Comrades in 1976, said he only became aware that he had not been placed in the Grand Masters category when he checked the results a day later.
“I just wondered why, so my daughter phoned in and she spoke to someone there and that’s when we found out,” he said.
“How can they only give a person 30 minutes after the race to appeal when most people are only looking at the results the next day?”