A red-faced marathon runner has admitted cheating after he caught a bus to the finish line to clinch third place.
Rob Sloan, 31, became tired at the 20-mile mark of Sunday's Kielder Marathon and hopped on the free spectators bus.
Just before the end of the race, he then disembarked the bus and emerged from a wooded section of the course to rejoin the race and pick up the bronze medal.
Witnesses reported seeing him hide behind a tree until the first and second placed runners went past, because coming first would be unrealistic, then rejoining the race behind them.
He "categorically denied" not completing the 26.2 mile course telling organisers: "I ran the whole race" in a statement on Monday.
But the runner, who just 24 hours earlier had won a 10K race, was spotted by a number of witnesses, and organisers were left with no alternative but to disqualify him after Sunday’s event - and he has now admitted his guilt.
Suspicions were raised after a number of runners reported being bemused by Sloan’s third place after they failed to see him pass them during the race.
A statement from the organisers of the Salomon Kielder Marathon said: “Last night we confirmed that the athlete who was disqualified on Sunday, after initially placing third, has admitted that he failed to complete the whole course of 26.2 miles.
“Rob Sloan of Sunderland Harriers had apparently made the decision to withdraw from the race at approximately 20 miles due to fatigue and after returning to the Leaplish Park area he decided to run the closing section of the course and
crossed the finish line in third place.
“This was rightly questioned by several witnesses including the rightful third place finisher Steven Cairns of Peebles, Scotland, who has been awarded his prize."
Sloan, a former army mechanic, of Downhill, Sunderland, has only been a member of Sunderland Harriers for the past few months.
Kielder Marathon director Steve Cram, who is chancellor of Sunderland University, said: “We are pleased this matter has been cleared up.
“Mr Sloan made a mistake and has apologised to us for the confusion it has caused. We were sure our decision was correct at the time and are pleased that Steven Cairns has rightly been confirmed as our third place finisher.”
Cairns, of Peebles, Scotland, said he was stunned to be told he had finished fourth behind Sloan.
"I approached a race marshal and said, 'Fourth? Who was third?' He pointed to this guy Rob Sloan who was being interviewed by ITV local news," Cairns told Capital FM.
"I listened to the interview. He was saying how good a race he had run and how he couldn't have given any more. When the interview was over I asked him if he had finished third and he said 'yes'.
"I then asked him where he had passed me and he said he'd done so after the 15-mile mark, which was impossible because at the point I had opened up a five-minute gap. He didn't say anything. He just turned away and walked off."