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Ex-PRI leader suspected of cheating in marathon

Roberto Madrazo won the men's 55 and older category at the Berlin Marathon Sunday. Roberto Madrazo won the men's 55 and older category at the Berlin Marathon Sunday. (DARIO LOPEZ-MILLS/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

MEXICO CITY - Former presidential candidate Roberto Madrazo disappeared midway through the Berlin Marathon on Sunday before reappearing 9 miles later, winning first in his age group and shaving an hour off his personal record.

Race organizers brag the course is fast; a new world record was set Sunday.

But rather than applaud Madrazo's victory in the "men's 55-and-over" category with a time of 2 hours, 40 minutes, and 57 seconds, the Reforma newspaper is dredging up suspicions that have dogged Madrazo his entire career: Could he have cheated?

Madrazo finished third in the 2006 election, largely because voters questioned how he acquired mansions, Florida real estate, and luxury cars during a lifetime of filling elected offices with the once-dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party, known as the PRI.

Maybe he just hit his stride Sunday, but many Mexicans are questioning how Madrazo, a veteran marathoner, could have cut his best time on the 26.2-mile race by about an hour without cheating.

It's going to be difficult for Madrazo to defuse the suspicions, thanks to the Germans' obsession with accuracy. Runners carried a computer microchip that recorded their times at race stations located about every 3 miles along the course.

Madrazo ran his first 20 kilometers, taking him to the marathon's halfway mark, at a respectable 1:42:42. He was on track to beat his best time this year, three hours and 39 minutes at the London marathon.

But there's no record, according to German race officials, of him passing the 25- or 30-kilometer stations, leaving 15 kilometers of the race with no record of his passing.

"The System Fell, Madrazo Wins," blared yesterday's headline in Reforma, echoing a rallying cry from the 1988 presidential election that the PRI is widely believed to have won by fraud.

A Madrazo spokeswoman denied any irregularities in the race.

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