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Madrazo DQ'd from Berlin Marathon for taking shortcut

MEXICO CITY -- After a humiliating defeat in Mexico's
presidential election last year, Roberto Madrazo appeared to be
back on top: He'd won the men's age-55 category in the Sept. 30
Berlin Marathon with a surprising time of 2:41:12.

But Madrazo couldn't leave his reputation for shady dealings in
the dust. Race officials said Monday they disqualified him for
apparently taking a shortcut -- an electronic tracking chip
indicates he skipped two checkpoints in the race and would have
needed superhuman speed to achieve his win.

According to the chip, Madrazo took only 21 minutes to cover
nine miles -- faster than any human can run. "Not even the world
record holder can go that fast,'' race director Mark Milde said.

In a photograph taken as he crossed the finish line, Madrazo
wears an ear-to-ear grin and pumps his arms in the air. But he also
wore a wind breaker, hat and long, skintight running pants -- too
much clothing, some said, for a person who had just run 26.2 miles
in 60-degree weather.

Madrazo's outfit caught the attention of the New York-based
marathon photographer Victor Sailer, who alerted race organizers
that they might have a cheater on their hands.

"It was so obvious to me, if you look at everyone else that's
in the picture, everyone's wearing T-shirts and shorts, and the
guy's got a jacket on and a hat or whatever,'' Sailer said. "I
looked at it and was like, wait a second.''

The world record for 15 kilometers -- the distance Madrazo
covered in 21 minutes -- is 41 minutes 29 seconds, by Felix Limo of
Kenya.

At a Mexico City taxi stand on Monday, drivers Octavio Elizalde
Cerrillo and Roberto Valle Rivera poked fun at Madrazo's troubles.
They, like other Mexicans their age, lived under decades of
uninterrupted rule by Madrazo's Institutional Revolutionary Party,
which often resorted to fraud to win elections, leaving many deeply
distrustful of politicians.

"If he's a cheat at one thing, he'll cheat at anything,'' said
Valle Rivera, 44.

"If you're going to steal, you'll steal here, in the United
States, in Europe, everywhere in the world,'' Elizalde Cerrillo,
41, added with a smile.

Madrazo's reputation at home was already tarnished. In 1996,
Mexico's attorney general confirmed reports that he had spent tens
of millions of dollars more than the legal campaign spending limit
in his winning 1994 bid for the Tabasco state governorship.

While under investigation on those charges, Madrazo told police
he was kidnapped for seven hours, beaten and threatened with death
by unidentified assailants. Police couldn't find evidence of any
such abduction, and many saw it as a sympathy ploy.

During the 2006 presidential campaign, opponents plastered walls
with posters reading, "Do you believe Madrazo? I don't either!''

In June, Madrazo completed the San Diego marathon with a time of
3:44:06, more than an hour slower than his time in Berlin, Mexican
newspaper Reforma reported. Madrazo's office did not return phone
calls from The Associated Press.

Race director Milde noted that Madrazo may have intended to drop
out and taken a shortcut to reach the start-finish area.

"I don't know if it was his intention or accidental: I try to
believe in the good of people,'' Milde said. But the fact that
Madrazo appears to be celebrating in the photograph could go
against this theory, he added.

Some 32,500 people finished the race and about 40 are
disqualified every year, Milde said.