Four runners disqualified after Chinese athlete allowed to win Beijing half marathon

Four runners disqualified after Chinese athlete allowed to win Beijing half marathon

A Chinese athlete has been disqualified from the Beijing Half Marathon alongside a trio of African runners after an investigation found they let him win.

The three athletes alongside were seen to offer no response or sprint finish when He Jie charged through to win the race on Sunday, one runner even seemingly encouraging him to victory.

All four were disqualified and had to return their medals and prize money after the video of the climax to the race raised immediate suspicions of rigging.

He Jie is China’s leading distance runner and won Asian Games gold last year for the marathon.

But Kenya's Robert Keter and Willy Mnangat and Ethiopia's Dejene Hailu appeared to slow to allw him past. The three African runners have superior personal bests to He over a number of distances but are someway short of the respective nations’ top talent.

Mnangat told the BBC: “I was not there to compete. It was not a competitive race for me.

"I don't know why they put my name on my bib/chest number instead of labelling it as a pacemaker.

"My job was to set the pace and help the guy win but unfortunately, he did not achieve the target, which was to break the national record."

Pacemakers, however, usually drop out some way before the end and there had not been any indication during or after the race that any of the three were anything but competitors.

He broke the tape in one hour 03.44 but was 11 seconds short of the Chinese national record, while another Kenyan runner did drop out further back in the race.

A special committee set up to investigate said that four runners had indeed been hired as pacemakers by a sponsor but that the main organisers of the race had not known this.

“We deeply and sincerely apologise to the world and to every part of society that we did not discover and correct the mistakes in time at this race,” the committee said in a statement.

The statement added that Zhong’ao Lupao Sports Management Co is losing its right to organise the Beijing Half Marathon as a punishment.