Chinese runner’s win revoked after probe into Beijing Half Marathon

A Chinese gold medallist and three African runners of the Beijing Half Marathon have been stripped of their medals after an investigation found the African trio deliberately decelerated near the finish line to enable the Chinese contestant to claim victory, organisers have said.

A video of China’s He Jie crossing the finish line in the final moments of the race sparked uproar in China, with many saying the race was rigged and demanding action against the athletes.

He won the gold medal and a $5,500 (£4,450) first prize after finishing the race in 1:03:44 last Sunday. The African trio of Kenya’s Robert Keter and Willy Mnangat and Ethiopia’s Dejene Hailu Bikila won joint second place.

The organising committee said in a statement that it had found that the three African runners “actively slowed down in the last two kilometres and as a result, He Jie won the men’s championship”.

It said the results of all four have been revoked, with their trophies, medals, and reward prizes withdrawn.

The video of the race showed Kenya’s Mnangat gesturing for He to run ahead as the four men ran shoulder to shoulder. His compatriot Keter appeared to signal the Chinese runner towards the finishing line, and gestured for the others to slow down.

The operator of the race, the Zhongao Lupao Beijing Sports Management Company, has also been disqualified from hosting and operating the Beijing Half Marathon, the committee added.

The African trio had been invited to join the race as pacemakers by Chinese sports company Xtep. The Chinese brand had sponsored both He and the Beijing Half Marathon, according to the committee.

The Chinese runner crossed the line first, and then the uproar began (Reuters)
The Chinese runner crossed the line first, and then the uproar began (Reuters)

Zhongao Lupao Beijing Sports Management said its partner Xtep had neglected to provide the necessary pacer information, resulting in the organising committee not being informed.

Xtep on Friday “sincerely apologised” to all its customers and the runners in the race, pledging to “reflect seriously and conduct a deep review” to “ensure such incidents do not happen again in the future”.

It went on: “We bear a great responsibility for this, [and] fully accept the punishment decision made by the organising committee.”

He, 25, is a former Asian Games winner who races the full marathon distance internationally. He finished first in the 19th Asian Games, held in China in October 2023.

In his only other major championships, the World Athletics Championships in Budapest in 2023, he finished 44th in the full marathon with a time of 2:19:48.

Ranked 74th in the world in the men’s marathon by World Athletics, He is expected to lead the way for Chinese runners in the Olympics in Paris this summer.