Investigation launched over ‘embarrassing’ detail in Beijing half marathon

Beijing half marathon organisers have announced they are investigating after footage shared widely online appeared to show three African runners deliberately allowing China’s He Jie to win.

Vision of Sunday’s race, which you can watch below, show the Kenyans Robert Keter and Willy Mnangat, Dejene Hailu of Ethiopia and home runner He approaching the finish.

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The three African runners can be seen pointing to the finish line and apparently waving He out in front, while appearing to slow down.

He, the 2023 Asian Games marathon gold medallist, won by one second. The four had stuck together throughout the course of just over 13 miles (21 kilometres), a broadcaster noted.

“We are investigating and will announce the results to the public once they are available,” a person from the Beijing Sports Bureau, who wished to remain anonymous, told AFP.

World erupts over bizarre marathon finish

The event’s organiser – the Beijing Sports Competition Management and International Exchange Center – also said an investigation had been launched.

The 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.

China Sports Insider Mark Dreyer said the incident was “extremely odd” in a post that gained traction on X.

“Three Kenyans in today’s Beijing Half Marathon clearly let China’s He Jie – current Asian Games marathon champion – win the race, all the while coasting themselves, waving him through and congratulating him after the race. Appears to be a tacit agreement?” he wrote.

Responding to declarations the African runners were pacemakers, Dreyer was still suspicious.

“So if they really were pacemakers, as apparently is being claimed, why didn’t they just say this originally? Why the need for a detailed investigation?” Dreyer wrote.

Track and field’s international body said it was “aware” of the footage online and the investigation into it.

“The integrity of our sport is the highest priority at World Athletics, while this investigation is ongoing we are unable to provide further comment,” Director of Communications Jamie Fox told AFP.

He told reporters after the race he was now fully prepared for the Paris Olympics.

“I have never participated in a half marathon before, so this time I wanted to set a personal best,” He said.

He noted that he considered the event a training session ahead of the upcoming Paris 2024 Summer Olympics, which will be held from July 26 to August 11.

“Now I am fully preparing for the Paris Olympics; please believe in Chinese athletes. I hope to showcase Chinese speed in Paris and let the world see the Chinese speed,” He said.

Long-distance 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.

– with New York Post

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