From the blog

PHOTO FINISH: BEIJING HALF MARATHON: Organisers Strip ‘Cheating’ Athlete Of Medals

Following the investigation into the top three runners at the 2024 Beijing half marathon where it appeared a Chinese athlete was allowed to win the race.

The 13-mile run on Sunday was won by He Jie, a member of China’s marathon team and national marathon record holder but footage appears to show three runners – Dejene Hailu Bikila from Ethiopia, as well as Robert Keter and Willy Mnangat from Kenya – slow down and let He Jie run ahead of them.

All top four finishers have subsequently been stripped of their medals by the organisers after an investigation found three African runners deliberately slowed down near the finish line to let He Jie win.

The video caused an online uproar in China, with many calling for an investigation and demanding action from organizers.

 In a statement, all four runners’ results have been revoked and their trophies, medals and bonuses will be withdrawn.’’

The three African runners were invited to join the race as pacemakers by Chinese sports company Xtep, which sponsored both He and the Beijing Half Marathon, according to the committee.

But Xtep failed to note the trio as pacemakers to the race operator, Zhong’ao Lupao Beijing Sports Management company, the committee said.

Kenyan runner Willy Mnangat initially told South China morning Post he let China’s He Jie win the Beijing Half Marathon, explaining that he did it “because he is my friend”.

Six hours later, Mnangat changed his story, saying he was a pacemaker. However, his bib was the same as He’s and did not say “pace”, as is common practice.

The committee disqualified the operator from hosting the Beijing Half Marathon and banned Xtep from sponsoring any more races this season.

Xtep has “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.”

He, 25, has broken China’s marathon record twice in the past two years and is considered one of the country’s most promising long-distance runners. He is ranked 74th in the world in the men’s marathon by World Athletics and is expected to lead the way for Asian runners in the upcoming Paris 2024 Summer Olympics.