Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Beijing half marathon runners stripped of medals after controversial finish

Beijing half marathon runners stripped of medals after controversial finish
April 19, 2024 Web Desk

BEIJING (AFP) - The top three in Sunday's Beijing half marathon have been stripped of their medals, organisers said, following an investigation into the finish that saw China's He Jie controversially win.

The race's bizarre finish saw He cross the line first after the Kenyans Robert Keter and Willy Mnangat, and Dejene Hailu from Ethiopia, seemed to deliberately allow him to win. Footage of the conclusion to the race went viral. "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 throughout the course of just over 13 miles (21 kilometres) around the streets of the Chinese capital. But He, the 2023 Asian Games marathon gold medallist, won by one second after his supposed rivals appeared to slow down towards the finish and waved him out in front.

All four were "punished" and their results cancelled, China's state broadcaster CCTV reported. Mnangat had told 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 said earlier this week they had met, issuing a statement vowing 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.