China's He Jie Loses Beijing Half-Marathon Win After Probe

He Jie of China is seen here competing in the half-marathon in Beijing on April 14, 2024. Credit - Ju Huanzong/Xinhua— Getty Images

Decorated Chinese athlete He Jie had been stripped of his Beijing half-marathon win Friday after an investigation found that the three African runners who competed alongside him had “actively slowed down” to let him cross the finish line first during the race on Sunday, April 14.

He won the 21 km. run in the capital with a time of 1 hr. 3 min. 44 sec.—107 seconds short of the national men’s half-marathon record. He was a second ahead of Kenyan runners Willy Mnangat and Robert Keter, and Ethiopian athlete Dejene Hailu Bikila, who had been pacesetting for him.

But the victory, which had clips circulating online, was investigated after it was heavily scrutinized for being rigged, with local media even describing it as damaging to the reputation of Chinese marathons.

Mnangat previously told the BBC that he was He’s friend, and that the trio of African runners were not competing and were helping He break the national record as pacesetters. But the committee said that pacesetters would not have been allowed to take part as specially invited athletes without organizers’ approval.

The committee decided that He and the trio’s trophies, medals, and bonuses will all be reclaimed. The four athletes will also be reported to the Chinese Athletics Association, the committee added.

Zhongao Lupao Beijing Sports Management company, the main organizer of the race, issued an apology, saying its partner Xiamen Xtep Investment failed to make note of the pacers—and thus the organizing committee was not informed. The company will be disqualified from hosting and operating the Beijing half-marathon.

The committee added that Xtep will be canceled as an event partner, instructed to apologize to the public, and be required to deal with those responsible for the mishap. In its apology Friday, Xtep said: “We bear great responsibility for this and fully accept the penalties imposed by the organizing committee.”
He had previously won the gold medal in the men's marathon at the postponed Asian Games in 2023. He also currently holds the national record for the full marathon, after he achieved a time of 2 hr. 6 min. 57 sec. in Wuxi on March 24. But Chinese sports observer Mark Dreyer earlier told TIME that the Beijing half-marathon incident “undermines” He’s other achievements.

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