Monday, June 17, 2024

China runner allowed to win: Match-fixing claim hits Beijing Half Marathon

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Chinese runner He Jie, Ethiopian Dejene Hailu Bikila and Kenyans Robert Keter and Willy Mnangat take part in a half-marathon in Beijing, China April 14, 2024 (Photo: Reuters)


Organisers of the Beijing half marathon are currently conducting an investigation into the men’s race following allegations of match-fixing, according to a report by The Guardian.


The controversy arose after footage surfaced showing two Kenyan runners and one Ethiopian apparently allowing China’s He Jie to win the race.


A user on social media platform X (formerly Twitter) posted a video of the race, which quickly garnered attention and raised suspicions of match-fixing among the public. The post highlighted the unusual behaviour of the foreign athletes, who seemed to allow He to overtake them deliberately.


In the video, Robert Keter and Willy Mnangat of Kenya, along with Dejene Hailu Bikila of Ethiopia, can be seen slowing down and gesturing in front of them, encouraging He to pass and take the lead in the final few hundred meters of the race.


The four athletes, who had run together throughout the race, then crossed the finish line side by side, with the three Africans dropping back to allow He to win.


He Jie, a member of the Chinese men’s marathon national team and the champion of the Hangzhou Asian Games, ultimately won the race with a one-second advantage. Mnangat later clarified that he and the other African runners were acting as pacemakers for He, who is the Chinese national champion in the full marathon distance.


After the race, Mnangat explained that he let He win “because he is my friend”.


Mnangat told the South China Morning Post, “He comes to Kenya and I was [pacing for him] in the Wuxi Marathon, so he is my friend, OK.”


Mnangat later explained that they were there to help He achieve a Chinese half marathon record, and their job was to set the pace for him. However, He fell short of the record by one minute and 11 seconds, despite winning the race.


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


The Beijing Sports Bureau confirmed that they are investigating the circumstances surrounding the finish of the race, and any findings will be promptly disclosed to the public.


“We will announce the results to the public once they are available,” the Bureau told AFP.


World Athletics also released a statement acknowledging the investigation and emphasising the importance of maintaining the integrity of the sport.


Speaking to BBC Sport, World Athletics said, “We are aware of the footage circulating online from the Beijing half marathon this weekend and understand an investigation is currently being conducted by the relevant local authorities… The integrity of our sport is the highest priority at World Athletics, while this investigation is ongoing we are unable to provide further comment.”


The incident has sparked widespread debate and scrutiny within the athletics community, with many calling for a thorough investigation to ensure fair competition in future races.

 

First Published: Apr 17 2024 | 2:59 PM IST

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