Winner, runners-up in Beijing Half Marathon stripped of prizes following probe
Published: Apr 20, 2024 01:02 AM
He Jie crosses the finish line of Beijing Half Marathon on April 14, 2024. Photo: VCG

He Jie crosses the finish line of Beijing Half Marathon on April 14, 2024. Photo: VCG

He Jie, winner of the Beijing Half Marathon, and three African pace setters who appeared to finish as runners-up, have all been stripped of their trophies, medals and prize money, the organizing committee announced on Friday.

The men's champion won the Beijing Half Marathon on April 14 with a time of 1:03:44, just one second ahead of Ethiopian runner Dejene Bikila, and Kenyans Robert Keter and Willy Mnangat, who tied for second place.

The marathon results immediately caused an uproar, as footage showed that He won the race because the three African runners slowed down to let him cross the finish line first.

Amid the ensuing controversy, the organizing committee of the marathon set up an investigation group to find out what happened.

According to the regulations of the event, apart from athletes who apply for the competition by themselves, pace setters can also run in the race but not as competing athletes.

In this event, China Olympic Road Running Company, one of the event organizers, invited a total of 28 Chinese and foreign athletes, including He Jie and four foreign pace setters, at the recommendation of Xtep International Holdings, the sponsor and partner of the sports event.

However, Xtep did not clearly label the pace setters, which led to them being identified as invited athletes who had come to participate in the race.

During the race, the four foreign pace setters wore the same bibs as invited athletes, even though they were supposed to run the marathon as He's pace setters.

One of the four pace setters quit the race soon after it began, but the other three ran all the way ahead of He until the final stretch. They then took the initiative to slow down during the last 2 kilometers. Eventually, He overtook them and won the race.

In accordance with the spirit of fair competition in sports and relevant regulations issued by China's General Administration of Sport, the event organizing committee decided to revoke the competition results for He, Mnangat, Bikila, and Keter, as well as taking back their trophies, medals and prize money. The incident was also reported to the Chinese Athletics Association.

Meanwhile, China Olympic Road Running Company's qualifications for organizing and operating the Beijing Half Marathon have been revoked. It was ordered to issue a public apology and to impose severe punishment on relevant personnel.

In addition, Xtep's partnership with the event has been canceled and it was also ordered to apologize to the public and seriously deal with the personnel held accountable for the incident.

Beijing Sports Competitions Administration and International Exchange Center, the other organizer of the event, was also criticized.

After the punishment decisions were announced, China Olympic Road Running Company apologized in a statement released on Friday, saying that the company expressed deep regret for the negative impact of the incident, and expressed their sincere apology to all the runners and to society.

The punishment decisions were applauded by the public, with many commenting that the individuals and relevant institutions deserve the punishment for profiting through fraudulent means.

Chinese media professional Hu Xijin wrote on Weibo that the relevant individuals and institutions had violated the rules of the competition and deceived the public, going against the spirit of sportsmanship and integrity.

Global Times