Beijing half marathon winners stripped of medals after African trio let Chinese runner win

The top four finishers of the Beijing Half Marathon have been stripped of their medals after an investigation found three African runners deliberately slowed down near the finish line to let a Chinese competitor win, according to organizers.

China’s He Jie crossed the finish line of last Sunday’s race in 1:03:44 to claim the gold medal and a $5,500 first prize, with the African trio just one second behind in joint-second place.

A video clip of the finish shows Kenya’s Willy Mnangat turning toward He and gesturing for him to move ahead as the four men run neck and neck. Former 5km world record holder Robert Keter, also from Kenya, then appears to wave at He to overtake the pack while signaling for his compatriot and Ethiopia’s Dejene Hailu to hang back.

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

In a statement Friday, the organizing committee said the three African runners “actively slowed down in the last 2 kilometers and as a result He Jie won the men’s championship.”

All four runners’ results have been revoked and their trophies, medals and bonuses will be withdrawn, it said.

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.

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

In a statement Friday, Xtep “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.

CNN’s Andrew McNicol contributed to this story.

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