LONDON -- Rob Sloan boasted he'd completed an "unbelievably tough" marathon near Newcastle after crossing the finish line in third place with a personal-best time.
Apparently, he didn't count the bus ride.
Sloan dropped out 20 miles into the race, hitched a ride on a spectator shuttle bus and emerged from the woods near the finish line to make the podium.
After Sloan initially described as "laughable" claims he cheated in the Kielder Marathon on Sunday, the 31-year-old former army mechanic admitted his transgression following an investigation by organizers.
"People in cars following the bus saw him get on and off. People saw him run through the bushes -- we had him hook, line and sinker," Dave Roberts, one of the marathon organizers, told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "Rob was distraught at having to come clean."
Sloan was stripped of his third-place medal. His time was listed as 2 hours, 51 minutes -- 21 minutes faster than his previous best in the race.
Competitors criticized the runner for tainting an event labeled by organizers as "Britain's most beautiful marathon." Sloan's running club is the Sunderland Harriers.
Steven Cairns, who moved from fourth to third following Sloan's disqualification, accused his rival of "stealing my glory."
"I was third the whole way but somehow I crossed the line and was given fourth!" Cairns said on his Facebook page. "I started to doubt myself as he was adamant he had gone past me. I could understand him taking the goody bag and the T-shirt but to do the press interview claiming he was third..."
A day after winning a 10-kilometer race at the same location, Sloan ran out of stamina with 6 miles left in the 26.2-mile marathon. Then came the bus ride and shortcut through the woods to the finish line.
"I'm convinced it was not premeditated," Roberts said. "But he felt rough, pulled out and flagged down a bus. It's as bad as drug-taking in my book because it's attempting to improve your performance by cheating. I've never known anything like it."
Sloan will go before a district committee this month and faces the possibility of being banned from marathons.
"We are pleased this matter has been cleared up," said event director Steve Cram, a former world record holder and world champion in the 1,500 meters. "Mr. Sloan made a mistake and has apologized to us for the confusion it has caused."
Cram will travel next week to Edinburgh, Scotland, to give Cairns his third-place medal.
One of the most famous cases of cheating in a marathon came at the Boston Marathon in 1980. Rosie Ruiz was the first woman to cross the finish line but was disqualified when officials discovered she jumped into the race about a mile from the end.