There are huge similarities to the Rob Young case.
I will copy an article and an Ulist email by a hero who exposed this cheater.
More information here:
A self-proclaimed marathon runner and Christian evangelist has lost his appeal of a Cobb County judgeâ€™s ruling that overturned a juryâ€™s $635,000 verdict in his favor against five people he had sued for posting defamatory statements about him on the internet.
According to the facts of the case, for a number of years, Stanley Cottrell, Jr. engaged in highly publicized running exhibitions that had a Christian evangelical and â€œfriendshipâ€ emphasis. Cottrell gained public notice and his solo running achievements were often portrayed in movies, books and other media. He successfully parlayed his image as a â€œworld-renowned ultra-marathon runnerâ€ into business endeavors, executive leadership roles, and motivational speaking. However, his notoriety was accompanied by controversy related to his character and media reports that questioned the authenticity of his achievements, including whether he actually ran the long distances he claimed. His critics also complained that as a married man he was engaged in a number of extra-marital affairs in conflict with his self-avowed Christian evangelism. Among his critics were five people Cottrell ultimately sued: Glenn and Marian Crocker who worked for Cottrell and helped plan two of his running exhibitions; Dr. Hugh Johnson, a Baptist minister who was Cottrellâ€™s prayer partner and confidant and learned about several women with whom Cottrell was intimately involved; Peggy Smith, one of the paramours; and Karen Smith, Peggyâ€™s daughter-in-law, who located and contacted several people she believed had information about Cottrell, including the Crockers and Johnson.
After becoming convinced that Cottrell deceived people for financial gain and had no intention of repaying her mother-in-law for a $20,000 loan she had given him, Karen Smith and her husband created a â€œWordPressâ€ blog about Cottrell called, â€œYou Shall Know the Truth.â€ According to briefs filed in the case, the posts contained statements such as, Cottrell was a â€œscam artist,â€ and â€œhis runs arenâ€™t even real.â€ Karen Smith also sent emails to a â€œlist-serveâ€ group criticizing Cottrell and sharing links to the Blog posts. Peggy Smith sent messages to a number of Cottrellâ€™s Facebook friends making similar allegations.
Today the Georgia Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in the case of "Cottrell v. Smith, et al.â€
The 29-page ruling was in favor of the defendants, and against plaintiff Stanley Cottrell, who had sued five people for defamation of character.
After more than four years in the Georgia courts, the case is finally over for good.
And Stan Cottrell lost.
Hearing this ultimate verdict will bring a smile to a handful of members on the UltraList. Yet Iâ€™m sure the great majority of you have no idea who Stan Cottrell is, or why this matter has any relevance for this site.
Well, itâ€™s a long story.
You see, once upon a time, Stan Cottrell was the most famous â€œultramarathon runnerâ€ in America.
And â€œCottrell v. Smithâ€ is the only legal proceeding Iâ€™m aware of in which the sport of ultradistance running has been discussed at length in a courtroom setting.
Iâ€™ve been involved in the case myself since Feb. 2012, when Chris Moorman, a lawyer from Atlanta, called me on behalf of his clients, Peggy and Karen Smith. They were among five people being sued by Stan Cottrell for having denounced him online as a scam artist and fraud.
In researching the case, Moorman had become aware that more than 30 years earlier, Iâ€™d been enmeshed in a major controversy in the running world in which I publicly labelled Cottrell a con man. So Moorman wondered if I might be able to provide him with any information that could possibly bolster his clientsâ€™ defense, by showing that other people had been raising questions about Mr. Cottrellâ€™s integrity decades before heâ€™d ever crossed paths with the Smiths.
Yep, that was something I could do.
During the period when I was the leading authority in the U.S. on ultramarathoning (1976-1986), I had two major prolonged and dishearteningly sordid episodes dealing with dishonest characters. One involved a very popular and seemingly talented runner who I respected greatly for years, until discovering that he had a penchant for deliberately cheating in races.
(Although some race directors eventually quietly banned him from their events, he continued to be treated warmly by most people for many years before finally retiring. The thing was, most runners who knew him refused to believe heâ€™d ever cut a course, or skip laps, etc. They insisted it all must just be an innocent mistake, because â€” guess what â€” â€œheâ€™s such a nice guy!â€ Sound familiar?)
The other was Stan Cottrell, who never actually ran an official ultra in his life.
I first became aware of him in Sept. 1979 when there was an Associated Press story on a man whoâ€™d just beaten the world record for the 24-hour run by five miles on a track in Atlanta. The article said heâ€™d done 167.25 miles in 24 hours, and featured a smiling photo of him running near the end of this feat.
I had two immediate thoughts. One was that since it was apparently a solo run heâ€™d set up himself, such a performance wouldnâ€™t meet the standards necessary to qualify as a world record. But that was a technical matter, and my other thought was, â€œGreat! Weâ€™ve got a new star. If he can go that far by himself, think what heâ€™ll be able to do in competition.â€
Since I didnâ€™t recognize the fellowâ€™s name, I naturally wanted to know more about the details of his run, and his background. In writing him for more info on both, and also asking some people in the south if they knew anything about him, I came up mostly dry. He did have a history of having been on a Division III college cross-country team at Western Kentucky; had run the Boston Marathon in 1964; and had been known to participate in some road races around Georgia.
But I couldnâ€™t find any evidence that he had any exceptional abilities that would suggest he was capable of running world-class performances. That didnâ€™t mean he couldnâ€™t be a great ultrarunner, but it raised questions. More troubling was that he seemed prone to exaggeration, or shading the truth. Like the typical con man, he dealt mostly in colorful, anecdotal storytelling about his running, rather than in any facts which could be checked and verified. Early on, he said his Boston time was 2:52, but the official results show he actually ran that race in 3:10:25. He also said he ran the Yonkers Marathon in 2:38, but when pressed for details, he said that heâ€™d run it â€œunofficially.â€ Likewise with a 2:34 which turned out to have been a casual â€œmarathonâ€ he did with a few friends.
Meanwhile, following his solo 24-hour, Cottrell sent his lap sheets and some biographical material to the Guinness Book of Records, as documentation proving the validity of his claim. Unfortunately for Stan, the Guinness people passed on his stuff to the Road Runners Club in England, for any comments they might have about it. The British RRC recognized me as the most knowledgeable person about American ultramarathoners. So they solicited my opinion, mailing me copies of his lap sheets plus a summary of his personal running biography. The latter was short on any race results, but said he'd qualified for the 1972 Olympic Trials in the marathon. That would certainly have been an impressive credential, except it wasnâ€™t true.
At first glance, his 24-hour documentation appeared convincing. It totalled six lap sheets, complete with signatures of numerous witnesses, etc. On closer scrutiny, though, I found discrepancies that raised more red flags, as the numbers didnâ€™t even add up to 24 hours, nor match up with newspaper accounts describing his walking periodically.
You get the idea. Although at first Iâ€™d thought Stan could very well be a legitimately great talent, as time went on I gradually concluded that his claims couldnâ€™t be trusted. I wrote to him numerous times, initially with questions; but later just to let him know whenever Iâ€™d be publishing a critical article on him, so he could have an opportunity to respond. All I ever got in response was one unsatisfactory phone call and one short letter reply, in which he wrote that he was not a phony, and was extremely eager to put my doubts to rest, but which didnâ€™t include anything specific which would help confirm his ability to do extraordinary things.
At first, Cottrell had told reporters that heâ€™d done lots of ultras prior to his solo 24-hour, and later said he was planning to run multiple ones in the future. But, he never did.
The only ultra he ever entered was a point-to-point 50-mile from Frankfort to Louisville, Kentucky, in Dec. 1980. Beforehand, I wrote the race organizers to point out that some people had doubts about Stan, and requesting that they merely keep an eye on him, so whatever results emerged from the race would be unquestionably valid. At a dinner the night before the race, Cottrell was featured as a speaker, and from what I heard, he was a charming and charismatic orator, who made an excellent impression on his audience of ultrarunners. (In other words, he was the epitome of â€œa nice guy.â€)
Alas, that night he was shown the letter in which Iâ€™d asked the organizers to be vigilant during the race. Gee, guess what? Stan ended up leaving the site in the middle of the night (maybe a â€œfamily emergencyâ€?), and did not participate the next day.
(Afterward I got a nice letter from the assistant race director, saying he understood my concerns, and felt they were warranted. But I got a very bitter letter from the race director, accusing me of character assassination and ruining his event by smearing the reputation of a fine man who was a much greater person than I could ever hope to be. Oh, okay.)
After that, he never signed up for any other ultra, despite claiming to have abilities that would have enabled him to easily whip almost any other ultrarunner in the world.
Does this sound familiar? Itâ€™s amazing how people like Stan Cottrell and Rob Young crave fame and adulation, and love being in the spotlight for their wondrous running achievements . . . yet they fold up like wilting flowers if someone actually shows up to monitor their running.
(This episode includes one amusing connection to the recent Rob Young fraud. When Stan Cottrell announced heâ€™d be doing the Kentucky 50-mile, among the other entrants were a young Ray Krolewicz and a young Gary Cantrell. They were eager to get a chance to run with Stan, being curious to find out if he was for real or not. Imagine their disappointment when he wound up being a DNS then. I think their interested presence was another factor in Cotrellâ€™s sudden decision to bail out of the event. It was a foreshadowing of Team Geezerâ€™s experience in going to check out RY, and seeing him totally fall apart as soon as he was subject to some genuine scrutiny.)
In the summer of 1980, Cottrell had done his own personal transcontinental run, in which he claimed to have set a new â€œWorld Recordâ€ of 48 days for that trek. This was many years before GPS tracking, or the immediate communications of social media and things like crowdsourcing. So the only way to follow the progress of such a run was by reading about it after the fact.
Press releases for his run said the venture had a budget of over $100,000, so big money was involved. It was sponsored by Keds, when the company briefly hoped to break into the running shoe market, and had an ad campaign based on praising Stan.
Naturally, he broke the record, according to Stan and his supporters. As evidence, he had an extensive logbook, and photos. Nonetheless, I found many of the press releases describing his experience pretty dubious. His route went from east to west, and it certainly sounded like he had an easy time of it. Hereâ€™s one of the descriptions, which sounds absurd to anyone familiar with the rigors of running 66+ miles a day for 7 weeks straight:
â€œHeading into Colorado, everyone involved with the Run for America was apprehensive about Stan being able to handle the Rockies. It seems all the worry was unfounded. Stan not only handled the Rockies, he conquered them. Stan being one of the most aerobically fit athletes in the world, he encountered no real difficulties in the mountains. According to Stan, the beauty of the Rockies was too inspiring for him to worry about any pain he might have been experiencing.â€
Considering everything, I eventually reached the firm conclusion this guy was simply a con man; and from 1980-82, I wrote numerous articles to that effect. At one point, his lawyer threatened to sue me over what Iâ€™d written. That scared me because of the hassle it could cause, but it didnâ€™t shut me up at all. Happily, though, that they never followed through on the threat.
I practically begged him to prove me wrong, by accomplishing anything impressive that could be verified by impartial witnesses. For example, I offered to go anywhere in the country myself to watch him do another 24-hour, as well as sending him lists of races which he could try. He ignored all such opportunities to prove he was as legit as his solo runs suggested.
Instead, he basically disappeared from sight of the ultra community. Professing to be a devout Christian, Cottrell was subsequently able to make a living as an inspirational speaker on the evangelical circuit, regaling religious audiences with stirring accounts of how the Lord had enabled him to become a world-record setting ultramarathoner. He also hit the international circuit, doing numerous point-to-point solo â€œFriendshipâ€ runs across great distances in foreign countries, with corporate and religious sponsors paying his way.
Iâ€™m sure he was telling his rapt listeners a pack of lies all this time, but once he was off the U.S. ultra scene, I just tried to forget about Stan Cottrell. Over three yearsâ€™ time, I wasted hundreds of hours of time on this jerk, and the whole thing left a really bad taste in my mouth. I was glad to finally be able to say good riddance to his con manâ€™s tales.
In 1984, Cottrell wrote an autobiography called â€œNo Mountain Too High,â€ which was published by the countryâ€™s biggest evangelical book company. When I heard about that I wondered if the book addressed the controversy over his 24-hour, etc. But since I didnâ€™t have any interest in Stan reaping a penny in royalties from me, I never read the book until 15 years later, when I chanced upon a copy for $1 in a used book store.
I got a chuckle reading his 3-page account of our dispute. While not identifying me by name, Cottrell portrayed me as a jealous and vindictive individual, determined to persecute poor, innocent Stan. He wrote that following his 24-hour:
â€œ. . . a lot of good things happened. Speaking engagements opened up to me. The Dinah Shore show booked me. I felt my career was finally taking off. Then came something I could not possibly have foreseenâ€”an attack on my character from a member and record keeper from a national runners' club. He hit my most vulnerable spot. The code of the hills says that a man's good name is his most prized possession. I had been called names before. Some people didn't like me. But no one had ever tried to label me a fraud. . . . And he didnâ€™t make the charges only once. He made them frequently and as vocally as possible."
Gee, he must not like me.
Although Cottrell went on to make a living out of his ill-gotten reputation as a great endurance runner, as far as the ultrarunning world was concerned, he was mostly out of sight, out of mind. The only time he was spoken of, it was for being a joke, and an object of derision.
For almost 30 years, he only crossed my radar rarely, when Iâ€™d see an occasional reference to some guy doing a solo run in a far-off country, usually in Asia or Eastern Europe.
That is, until 2012, when the Atlanta lawyer asked me if I knew anything about Stan Cottrell. As a result, he came back onto my radar in a big way. It took a great deal of rooting around my attic, but I was able to find a lot of things written over three decades ago, and got to relive the whole aggravating experience anew.
In the lawsuit which was finally declared over today, Cottrell (who is now 72 years old) claimed that Peggy and Karen Smith (a woman he lied to and borrowed money from, and her daughter-in-law) had caused monetary harm to him by hurting his reputation with the â€œscam artistâ€ charges they made against him. He claimed to have lined up tentative pledges of a million dollars in corporate support for his next overseas run, until that dried up after the negative postings about him began appearing. (The run was supposed to involve running 70 miles a week in 250 different countries in 250 weeks, during which he said heâ€™d be raising a billion dollars for the children of the world. Con men tend to pitch their ideas in grandiose terms. . . .)
While the Smiths have never had any connection to the running world, one of the online postings they were sued over was called â€œHis Runs Arenâ€™t Even Real.â€ This was before they even knew about me, but was based on hearing from a married couple whoâ€™d assisted in the planning of two of his exhibition runs during the 1990s and felt heâ€™d cheated them in their business dealings (they ended up being sued, along with the Smiths), plus another source whoâ€™d told them their nemesis had regularly ridden in a van between cities during some of the times he was supposed to be running.
By the time the case went to trial, Chris Moorman and I had talked extensively about Cottrellâ€™s past, and the defense was eager to have me testify about the ancient controversy between us.
Thatâ€™s how I wound up testifying in a legal case for four hours as an expert witness on the subject of ultrarunning. It was a bizarre turn of events.
Iâ€™m an extremely introverted, quiet and shy person (despite my gabbiness in print), so the experience was nerve-wracking at first. In the days beforehand, I was tremendously on edge and got less than two hoursâ€™ sleep in each of the last three nights. And early on, the court reporter frequently had to ask me to repeat myself, because my voice was so soft, and mumbling at times.
However, after a ragged start, I did well. Moorman initially spent a long time establishing my credibility as an expert witness, and then went into the reasons Iâ€™d concluded Cottrellâ€™s claims long ago had been bogus. When that direct questioning was over and there was a break, he said weâ€™d done an excellent job of impeaching Stanâ€™s credibility.
Then it was time for cross-examination, where I had to worry about being tricked up by the hostile opposing lawyer. Interestingly, the attorney questioning me was Tyler Dixon, the same lawyer whoâ€™d threatened to sue me over the controversy more than three decades ago! Dixon had a very friendly â€˜aw-shucksâ€™ demeanor and an attractive southern drawl, but we were definitely on opposing sides. Nevertheless, I did even better under his antagonistic grilling than Iâ€™d done with the gentle questioning from the defense. And as the afternoon wore on, I felt more and more comfortable with the jousting. I even became somewhat combative (my voice wasnâ€™t soft any more), and started using the questions from Cottrellâ€™s lawyer as ways to score points against their position. Nearing the four-hour mark, they asked if I needed a break because everyone seemed to be getting tired. I almost surprised myself by replying that I was just getting warmed up and would be happy to go all night long without a pause. At that point, Cottrellâ€™s lawyer said he anticipated questioning me for about two more hours. But when his next few questions tended to hurt Stanâ€™s position more than helping it, Dixon abruptly said he was done.
Moorman was delighted with how the day had gone. Initially heâ€™d expected the trial to last a week, but instead it wound up taking three full weeks to complete.
On the issue of his running history, there were two other witnesses who testified about Cottrellâ€™s behavior in the 1980s. One was Dick Buerkle, who was a reporter for the Atlanta Constitution who wrote a critical article in 1985 about Cottrellâ€™s transcontinental claim, but a story that never got published, after the paper was threatened with a lawsuit over it. (By coincidence, Buerkle was someone with a fantastic running background himself. Oldtimers among you may remember him as a star track athlete, both for his appearance and his achievements. Buerkle was instantly recognizable in any race because he was bald. And as a runner, he made two U.S. Olympic teams, and set a world record in the indoor mile when he ran a 3:54.9 in 1978.) The other was a guy named Reese Thompson, whoâ€™d been on Stanâ€™s crew during the 1980 transcontinental, and now testified under oath that Cottrell had cheated in the run by taking rides in the team van for parts of it.
(I have the long transcript of my testimony, but didnâ€™t hear the testimony of Buerkle and Thompson so I donâ€™t know exactly what they said. But I hope to get a transcript of their interrogations, too, in a week or two.)
Besides this damning evidence, there was testimony about a slew of other unethical behavior on Cottrellâ€™s part, from business associates who said he misled them; from other older women heâ€™d romanced with falsehoods (while being married all the time); plus instances of posing as an army general, etc.
By the time the trial was drawing to a close, Moorman felt very confident his clients would be vindicated. Thus, it was a shock when the jury instead ruled in Cottrellâ€™s favor, finding all five defendents guilty and awarding him $635,000 in damages. One of Moormanâ€™s specialties are free speech and defamation suits, and he said it was the most flabbergasting verdict heâ€™d heard during his entire career, and a terribly depressing one. But, as he observed, juries can be totally arbitrary and unpredictable. Once a case is put in their hands, you can never be sure what will happen.
Not surprisingly, he appealed the verdict. Although it took over a year for the appeal to work its way through the next level, it was a relief when a state Superior Court threw out the guilty verdict on multiple legal grounds. In turn, the plaintiff appealed that ruling. So it wasnâ€™t until today that everything was finally settled, with the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously deciding in favor of the defendents.
Stan Cottrell, the famous ultramarathoner who most of you never heard about until now, lost today.