Xolani Luvuno reaches Harrison Flats during this year’s Comrades Marathon.
Durban - The Comrades Marathon board believes its decision not to allow disabled athlete, Xolani Luvuno, to run in this year’s race was fair.

Chairperson Cheryl Winn said they were acting in the best interests of the race and all athletes should be treated equally.

Luvuno rose to fame after taking part in last year’s marathon, albeit under controversial circumstances, according to Winn.

She said Luvuno’s mentor, Hein Venter, had made an arrangement for him to run in last year’s race. However, the official who gave permission was not in a position to make the call.

“We only came to find out about the agreement on the day of the race. The same person later issued a statement saying that Luvuno had received a medal. However, this was not true,” Winn said.

Despite this, Luvuno took part in this year’s race.

Winn said the association had declined Luvuno’s 2019 application because he failed to meet the qualifying requirements.

“We refused to sanction for him to start several hours ahead of the race.

“Runners wishing to participate in the Comrades Marathon are required to qualify by completing a race of standard marathon 42.2km distance or an ultra-marathon, according to a sliding scale of maximum qualifying times for events,” she said.

Winn maintained that they did not want to take responsibility for Luvuno starting the race several hours before the actual start on Sunday at 5am.

Venter said they were disappointed by the manner in which Luvuno was treated. He said Luvuno had put in a lot of work before the ultra-marathon, dubbed the “Ultimate Human Race”.

He said he could not run this year’s race with Luvuno.

He said despite Luvuno breaking his hand in the Iron Man Challenge earlier in the year, he still opted to run.

Venter said they encountered a few challenges on the road with Luvuno’s safety vehicles being told that they could not drive alongside him and that he had to run on the pavement.

“Despite all of this, Xolani is still being philosophical about this. I told him that I didn’t care if we never did the Comrades again,” Venter said.

He said he did not think it was fair for Luvuno to be frustrated and humiliated. “He has overcome so much and there are so many other challenges and adventures that we can do. Xolani is an inspiration to so many people. Comrades does not define him.”

Luvuno, who developed bone cancer and had to have part of his right leg amputated, ended the race just 5km from the finish line.

The Mercury