Beijing Half Marathon Scandal: Cheating Runners Stripped of Medals

He Jie, the 2023 Asian Games marathon gold medallist, won by one second after his rivals appeared to slow down towards the finish line

The top three runners from the Beijing half marathon on Sunday have been stripped of their medals, the organisers said on Friday, following an investigation into the controversial finish that saw China’s He Jie win.

In a bizarre finish to the race, He Jie crossed the line first after being allowed to pass with ease and even spurred on by fellow competitors Robert Keter, Willy Mnangat (Kenya) and Dejene Hailu (Ethiopia).

Footage of the conclusion of the race went viral and drew criticism over the fairness of the outcome.

“Today the 2024 Beijing Half Marathon Organising Committee issued a decision on the investigation and handling of the men’s race results,” a state media report said on Friday.

It added: “The trophies, medals and bonuses will be recovered.”

The four runners had stuck together through most of the course of the race (21 kilometres) around the streets of the Chinese capital.

But He, the 2023 Asian Games marathon gold medallist, won by one second after his rivals appeared to slow down towards the finish line and waved him out in front.

All four were “punished” and their results cancelled, China’s state broadcaster CCTV reported.

Mnangat clarified to the BBC that the African trio were pacemakers, although their bibs did not say that.

The race investigation said that Mnangat, Keter and Hailu had not been properly registered as pacemakers for He, so their actions on the finish line breached competition rules.

‘Embarrassing result’

The Chinese Athletics Association officials met earlier this week and in a statement vowed to make improvements to the sport in the country.

Sunday’s incident received significant attention on Chinese social media site Weibo, with some users criticising what they saw as an “embarrassing” result.

“This will certainly be the most embarrassing championship in He Jie’s career,” one wrote.

“With such a major organiser and such a well-known event, this really pushes sportsmanship to the ground in shame,” the post said.

Long-distance and marathon running has boomed in recent years among China’s middle class, but there have been numerous instances of cheating and poor organisation.

In 2018, at a half marathon in the southern city of Shenzhen, 258 runners were found to have cheated, including many who took shortcuts.

Traffic cameras caught them darting through trees to join a different part of the race.

In 2019, a woman was filmed riding a green rental bike in the Xuzhou International Marathon in eastern China.

She was ordered by race officials to dismount the bike, only to get back on again afterwards.

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