Beijing runner disqualified after others slowed to let him win

Organizers have revoked He Jie's victory in the Beijing Half Marathon last weekend after an investigation confirmed that three other runners had slowed down to let him win the race.

All four runners were disqualified and had to return their medals and award money.

Chinese users had shared the video from the final moments of Sunday's race out of suspicion that it had been rigged. The footage showed three African runners letting He, China's top long-distance runner, move ahead of them shortly before they were about to reach the finish line.

The three runners deliberately reduced their pace, according to a statement from a committee set up to investigate the race.

The special committee said four runners had originally been hired as pacemakers by a sponsor but that the main organizers of the race had not known this. One of the pacemakers didn't finish the race.

The statement did not acknowledge whether the race was rigged, but it did issue an apology.

"We deeply and sincerely apologize 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.

Zhong'ao Lupao Sports Management Co., the main organizer, is losing its right to host the Beijing Half Marathon as punishment.

One of the runners had told BBC Sport Africa that they allowed He to win because they had been hired to serve as pacemakers and were not competing to win the race.

"I was not there to compete," Willy Mnangat of Kenya was quoted as saying. "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."

Also disqualified were Dejene Hailu Bikila of Ethiopia and Robert Keter of Kenya.

Long-distance races are increasingly popular in China but have a checkered history of cheating and poor organization. In a half-marathon in Shenzhen in 2018, 258 participants were caught cheating, most of whom had taken shortcuts while some wore fake bibs and others were impostors.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.