Saturday, May 25, 2024

Beijing half-marathon winner stripped of medal after 3 African runners let the Chinese athlete overtake, video appears to show

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  • Organizers of Beijing’s half-marathon stripped the winner of his gold medal, say reports.
  • Video evidence appeared to show African runners slow to allow China’s He Jie to overtake and win.

Organizers of Beijing’s half-marathon last weekend have stripped He Jie, China’s top long-distance runner, of his gold medal after an investigation concluded that three other runners had purposely slowed down to let him win the race, say reports.

Video footage from the final moments of the 13-mile race shows Kenya’s Robert Keter and Willy Mnangat and Ethiopia’s Dejene Hailu in front of He. Mnangat appears to gesturing to the Chinese runner for him to pass ahead. Robert Keter then waves at He to overtake and signals to the other two African runners to pull back.

He crossed the line in a time of 1:03:44 to take the gold medal and the $5,500 prize money. The African trio were just one second behind in joint-second place.

In a statement seen by the Guardian, the organizing committee said: “We deeply and sincerely apologize to the world and to every part of society that we did not discover and correct the mistakes in time at this race.”

The investigation revealed the three African runners to be pacemakers, hired by Chinese sports company Xtep, which sponsored both He and the Beijing Half Marathon, but it did not inform the organizers.

In a statement Friday, Xtep “sincerely apologized” to all the runners and its customers.

“We bear a great responsibility for this, fully accept the punishment decision made by the organizing committee,” it said, vowing to “reflect seriously and conduct a deep review” to “ensure such incidents do not happen again in the future.”

Runner Mnangat confirmed to BBC Sport Africa that the group had not been running competitively but rather had been hired as pacemakers for He.

“I don’t know why they put my name on my bib/chest number instead of labeling it as a pacemaker,” he said, per the BBC.

“My job was to set the pace and help the guy win but unfortunately, he did not achieve the target, which was to break the national record.”

Mnangat told the South China Morning Post he let He win “because he is my friend.”

He, 25, has broken China’s national marathon record twice in the past two years. He is ranked 74th in the world by men’s marathon by World Athletics.

All four runners’ results have been revoked, and they will be stripped of their trophies, medals, and bonuses.

Zhong’ao Lupao Sports Management Co, the marathon’s main organizer, also lost its right to host the event as a result.

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