Rachid El Morabity has explained that he pulled out of this year’s Marathon des Sables in “protest” against a three-hour time penalty.
The legendary Moroccan runner, who was in contention for a record-equalling 10th title at the desert ultra, was sanctioned due to an “anomaly” discovered during a bag check after the third stage.
El Morabity subsequently pulled out the race as he claimed he was “punished unfairly for a mistake I did not commit”.
Mohamed El Morabity, Rachid’s brother, would go on to clinch victory at the Marathon des Sables for the first time having finished runner-up behind his elder sibling on five occasions.
‘No explicit violation’
Following the conclusion of the race, Rachid gave a statement to local media which told of his frustration at the sanction, which was imposed amid his alleged breach of rules which forbid external assistance.
“I was wronged by the organizing committee because I did not violate the laws of the race,” he said.
“The committee found an empty [yoghurt] box in the side of my bag, which is subject to all the rules of the race and without any explicit violation.”
“The box that was found empty dates back to before the beginning of the current edition and that is my nature – I keep the garbage until I encounter a garbage container and get rid of it.
“My bag load was normal and it is not the first time I participate in this race. I have won it nine times.”
“My withdrawal is a form of protest against the treatment, the content of which is an injustice to me, especially after I was striving to be among the most successful in the Marathon des Sables and add this edition to my balance.”
But despite his disappointment, Rachid was sure to celebrate Mohamed’s achievement as his younger brother finished over nine minutes clear of compatriot Aziz Yachou.
“It is with immense joy that I congratulate my little brother Mohamed for this victory at the 37th Marathon des Sables, which dedicates the great champion he has been for a very long time,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
“The victory remains in Morocco and Zagora, my region, where I thank all the people who continue to support and encourage me, in every race.
“Without the support of my family and Zagora I would not be able to overcome myself so much to go for the victory.”
After the race, Mohamed said: “I’m so sad for my brother. “He should have won but that’s how it is, next year inshallah.”
In another Facebook post, Rachid asserted that he will return to the Marathon des Sables in 2024 and strive to clinch yet another win – and continue the El Morabity’s recent domination of the race.
“I have now turned to the goal of winning the 10th historic title at the Marathon des Sables next year.
“It’s all these people with the love they carry us, that allows me and my brother to overcome in trials such as the Marathon des Sables.
“I have only one thing to tell you; see you in April 2024 for the 11th victory in our great family. Thank you to all the people who support me every day.”