4 Disqualified from Beijing Race After 3 Let Chinese Runner Pass

The top finishers in the Beijing Half Marathon have been disqualified after three runners from Africa appeared to step aside to let a Chinese competitor win the race on Sunday.

The four runners approached the finish line close together, as they had been for much of the race. But then three of the runners appeared to move aside and gesture for the fourth, He Jie of China, to pass them.

He won the race, and the three other runners, Willy Mnangat and Robert Keter of Kenya, and Dejene Hailu of Ethiopia, took the next three places.

Footage of the finish caused a stir and led many inside and outside China to wonder why the three other runners had seemingly given He the victory.

Mnangat later told The South China Morning Post that the African runners had been hired as pacemakers in an effort to help He break the Chinese half-marathon record.

All four runners have now been disqualified. Race organizers said in a statement on Friday that was shared with CCTV, the state broadcaster, that Xtep, the race sponsor, had invited the African trio to be pacemakers, but that they should not have been eligible to compete as ordinary entrants. (A fourth pacemaker dropped out earlier in the race, according to the statement.)

During the last two kilometers of the race, three of the pacemakers “actively slowed down,” the investigation concluded, leading He to win the men’s race.

A committee formed to investigate the incident said in the statement issued by the race organizers that it would “withdraw their trophies, medals and bonuses.” The committee apologized and said that it would “learn lessons” from the episode.

An official with the Chinese Athletics Association, which is in charge of track and field and road running in the country, said the group would “further strengthen the supervision, guidance and services of road running events,” according to the Chinese state news agency Xinhua. The official added that the association would “urge regional associations and event organizers to learn lessons from this Beijing Half Marathon.”

Pacemakers are used in some top-level track and road races to help other athletes run faster, but they normally drop out before the race ends.

The organizers confirmed that Xtep had invited Mnangat, Keter and Hailu to be pacemakers, but said that they had instead been registered as competitors.

“We bear significant responsibility for this incident and fully accept the penalties imposed by the organizing committee,” Xtep said on Friday, according to The South China Morning Post.

In the end, He ran 1:03:44, a second short of the record he had been trying to break.

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