Johannesburg - Despite a massive boost in prize money for breaking the up-run record in the men's and women's races in 2015, the Comrades Marathon is still dealing with allegations of cheating from the 2013 race.
If the race winner in either the men's or women's race breaks the record for the 86.86 kilometre route starting in Durban and finishing in Pietermaritzburg on May 31, they will be awarded a R1.5 million bonus in addition to their R375 000 first place winner's cheque.
There were reports of 31 non-elite athletes accused of cheating in the 2013 race, and the disciplinary process was carried out by KwaZulu-Natal Athletics (KZNA), but had still not been concluded with entries for the 2015 race opening on September 1.
"Comrades' name is taking a beating with regard to that [cheating allegations]," said Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) race director Rowyn James at the launch of the 90th edition of the race at Monte Casino on Thursday.
"It is concerning for Comrades about the length of the process, and obviously Comrades is at the forefront of the issue because that is where the cheating took place.
"We'd certainly like to see a conclusion to that process as quickly as possible."
KZNA president Sello Mokoena said the allegations of cheating only came to the association's attention at the end of March this year and was the reason behind the slow disciplinary process.
"The matter came to our attention at the end of March this year, by that time for the 2014 event entries had been done," said Mokoena.
"So we started a process of investigation, and then there is a disciplinary team dealing with that and gathering evidence from the 31 cases that were reported, and is down now to under 20."
Mokoena said the 2013 disciplinary process had to be delayed so it would not interfere with the 2014 race.
"The process was halted so the event could take place, so runners could make travel arrangements.
"That process picked up again last month after the Comrades marathon. It should be concluded by the end of this month, but certainly before the end of September."
Clearly not satisfied with the duration of disciplinary proceedings, James said he would be handling future allegations of cheating starting with the 2014 race.
"There's been allegations of cheating from 2009 right up until now," said James.
"That process sits with KwaZulu-Natal Athletics in terms of doing the disciplinary process. In terms of the 2014 race, I've been mandated by the Comrades Marathon Association board to actually do the investigation myself for the 2014 race and going on, just to try and speed up the process."
CMA would have the jurisdiction to stop runners who had broken the rules from competing in future competitions, said James.
"Wherever any athlete has contravened the rules and regulations of CMA, we have the ability to exclude those athletes from future races if they admit they have cheated.
"If they do not [admit], a normal disciplinary process needs to follow, and that has to be done by KZNA."
Another issue surrounding the 2014 race, was the apparent disallowing of Zola Budd claiming first place in the women's 40-49 veteran age category.
Budd still was awarded seventh place overall in the women's category, but KZNA did not allow the athlete to claim her first place in the veterans as she did not display her age category tags correctly.
Budd's manager Ray de Vries sent out a statement on Wednesday saying his athlete did not know if she was in fact stripped of first place in the veteran women.
"KZNA and Comrades have still not communicated with Budd or De Vries as to what the charge or situation is and what the outcome is 75 days after the race," said the statement.
Mokoena, meanwhile, disputed these claims and said Budd had been notified the matter had already been resolved.
"These are technical issues which is decided by the chief referee on the day," said Mokoena.
"What I'm aware of is that Ms Budd has been communicated to about that query. Communication has been forwarded to Ms Budd by CMA."
The situation, however, was still no clearer according to De Vries.
"The race director of the Comrades Marathon sent a letter to Zola which made no sense at all," said De Vries.
"Firstly no letter should have come from him as it is the federation, KZNA, who need to clarify what it is that they are up to, Secondly, as soon as he was confronted with the facts he redirected all and any correspondence to KZNA."