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Chinese runner, 3 pacers in marathon disqualified

By CUI JIA | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-04-20 07:47
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Chinese runner He Jie finishes the Beijing Half Marathon 2024 in Beijing, the capital of China, on April 14, 2024. [Photo by Wei Xiaohao/]

The organizing committee of the Beijing Half Marathon announced on Friday that it has disqualified the results of Chinese runner He Jie, who won gold, and three African runners who were contracted to run as pacers for him to help him achieve a better result.

The committee launched an investigation after an online uproar was caused by videos showing the three African runners appearing to slow down near the finish line to allow He to win by a second with a time of 1:03:44 during Sunday's 21-kilometer race.

Video clips showed Kenya's Willy Mnangat and Robert Keter, Dejene Hailu of Ethiopia and home star He approaching the finish line. Mnangat looked at He and seemingly beckoned his Chinese opponent to go ahead of him and the two other runners as they neared the finish line.

According to the rules, in addition to runners who register by themselves, other athletes and pacers can also be invited to participate, but pacers cannot compete as athletes who have special invitations, the organizer said in a statement.

Chinese sportswear company Xtep, a sponsor and partner of the event, and China Olympic Road Race Sports Management Co, the event's organizer, sent special invites to 28 athletes to take part in the race, including He and four foreign athletes who were to be He's pacers, the statement said.

But Xtep failed to clarify that the four foreign athletes were in fact He's pacers, so the organizer didn't inform the organizing committee and allowed them to run with bibs indicating that they were athletes with special invitations, according to the statement.

During the race, one of the pacers quit about four kilometers into the race. The other three pacers stayed in the lead. They started to slow down about two kilometers from the finish line, allowing He to win, it added.

The organizing committee then decided to disqualify He and the three African pacers and take away their medals and rewards.

Also, China Olympic Road Race Sports Management Co will no longer serve as the organizer of the Beijing Half Marathon, while Xtep has been removed from the event's list of partners, it said.

The committee also apologized to the public, saying that it failed to spot and correct related issues during this year's Beijing Half Marathon, and that it has learned its lessons.

Xtep also issued a statement on Friday saying the company made the mistake of failing to mark the four African racers as He's pacers during the registration process, and it takes responsibility for making people criticize the result and question the integrity of sportsmanship, and issued an apology to all the runners.

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