New York City Marathon officials invalidated Ruiz’s time after reviewing videotape showing that Ruiz had not crossed the finish line in the time she had mistakenly been assigned by a volunteer, who thought Ruiz was an injured runner.
Days later, Ruiz’s victory in Boston was also nullified. Race organizers there based their decision on about 10,000 photographs taken along the last mile of the race as well as on information supplied by the news media and observers along the route. In addition, at least one witness recalled seeing Ruiz enter the course at Kenmore Square, about a mile from the finish line.
The evidence proved that the Canadian runner Jacqueline Gareau had won the race.
“I can truthfully and honestly say without hesitation that today has been the second saddest day of my life,” Ruiz was quoted as saying by The Associated Press after her disqualification, “only to be surpassed by the day I had to leave my father in my native country 18 years ago.”
Ruiz was born in Havana on June 21, 1953, and left Cuba for Florida when she was about 8 years old.
She attended Wayne State College in Nebraska for three years before moving to Manhattan without having graduated.
She soon faced legal problems. She was charged in 1982 with grand larceny and forgery, accused of stealing cash and checks from the real estate firm where she had been a bookkeeper. She was sentenced to a week in jail and five years’ probation. In 1983, having moved back to Florida, she was arrested on charges of attempting to sell cocaine to undercover agents at a hotel in Miami and spent three weeks in jail.
Survivors include her domestic partner, Margarita Alvarez; three sons, Francisco, Reynoldo and Gilberto; and her brother, Robert Ruiz. Her marriage to Aicardo Vivas ended in divorce.
In the 39 years since the Boston Marathon, Ruiz kept her medal — a new one was made for Gareau — maintaining that she had completed and won the race, fair and square. But in 1996, Steve Marek, a defender of Ruiz’s who led a running club in Westchester, said that several months after the marathon she admitted to him that she had cheated.
“She jumped out of the crowd, not knowing that the first woman hadn’t gone by yet,” Mr. Marek told The Boston Globe. “Believe me, she was as shocked as anyone when she came in first.”