A founder of one of the country’s most high profile adventure races has resigned his position and apologised for lying about passing out as a Royal Marines officer from the Commando Training Centre (CTC) in Lympstone, prompted by an angry response from former servicemen.
As previously reported by the Echo, Spartan Race UK co-founder Richard Lee, 30, has continually claimed to be a former Royal Marines officer since he underwent Young Officer Training at CTC in 2007/8, but did not finish.
The Ministry of Defence confirmed that they were investigating his claims.
The revelation about the claims by Mr Lee, who is the licensee and operator of Spartan Races in the UK, were originally published on the Facebook page, The Walter Mitty Hunters Club HQ, which has more than 12,000 followers.
The people behind the group, which is run by former servicemen who investigate people who falsely claim they are, or were members of our Armed Forces, wish to remain anonymous but have welcomed his admission that he lied about being a Royal Marine and his apology.
Following the outrage about his false claims, Joe De Sena, founder and CEO of Spartan Race, confirmed that he and Mr Lee agreed that the “only honourable thing” for him to do was to resign, which he did on December 31.
Mr De Sena confirmed that the Spartan Race “does not condone stolen valour in any form” and echoed Mr Lee’s apology to all those who may have been offended.
Mr Lee, said: “I was wrong, I am sorry, and I want to apologise for the fact that I publicised that I had passed out from CTCRM as a Royal Marines Commando Officer.”
Mr Lee said that from 2001 – 2004 he was in the Officer Training Corps which led to him successfully being selected for Royal Marines Young Officer training in 2006, starting training in 2007.
He said that during the course in 2008, he broke his kneecap but after surgery and rehabilitation was deemed unfit by a CTC medical officer to return and complete his training, however he had been permitted to attend relevant courses to become a mountain leader.
“This was a huge blow,” Mr Lee continued. “As even from a young age, I was inspired by family members who were in the Royal Marines.
“I have the utmost respect for members of the military, and even during my own time training, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment.”
He added: “To all those who served their countries, past and present, please accept my deepest apologies.”
Mr Lee also wanted to confirm that a photo of him wearing a rented World War One costume has been taken out of context. He said that it was a fancy dress costume for a murder mystery party he attended when he was 18, not a ploy to pass as a Royal Marine in ceremonial dress.
He added that he understood how the “masquerade party outfit” might offend and apologised again.
Mr De Sena, added: “Richard and I spoke at length regarding the inaccuracies surrounding his status as a Royal Marine, and ultimately concluded that the only honourable thing for him to do would be to resign his position.
“Spartan Race is committed to promoting wellness and healthy living around the world through the sport of obstacle racing, and is commencing the process of transferring the license in the UK to a new partner to ensure there is no disruption in the 2014 race calendar.”
He added: “Spartan Race does not condone stolen valour in any form; whether someone trained with the military for one week or four years, they cannot be characterised as something they are not.
“We wish to apologise again to all those around the world who worked so hard to earn proud distinction serving their countries.”
Former Army paratrooper of eight years, Michael Collins from South West London, said:
“Up until a few weeks ago he was still maintaining that he was former Royal Marine.
“He’s used these claims about being a Royal Marine for personal gain to boost his career which is wrong.
“The training I underwent to become a paratrooper was tough and I know the Royal Marines training is too, so to say you’ve completed it when you haven’t is very undermining of the effort it takes.”
- TV adventurer and survival expert Bear Grylls is made honorary Royal Marine Lieutenant Colonel (dailyrecord.co.uk)