Beijing half marathon hit by controversy as China’s He Jie allowed to win

Investigation launched after trio appear to let He cross line first, but Kenya’s Willy Mnangat says they were all just hired as pacemakers

Organisers of the Beijing half marathon are investigating the men’s race after two Kenyans and one Ethiopian runner appeared to deliberately allow China’s He Jie to win.

Footage of the final few hundred metres of the race seemingly shows Robert Keter and Willy Mnangat of Kenya and Ethiopia’s Dejene Hailu Bikila slow down and gesture in front of them, encouraging He to pass and take the lead.

The four athletes, who had run together for the whole race, then ran side by side to the finish line, before the three Africans dropped back to let He cross the tape first.

Mnangat told BBC Sport that they were running as pacemakers for He, who is the Chinese national champion in the full marathon distance. “I was not there to compete,” Mnangat said. “It was not a competitive race for me.”


Immediately after the race the Kenyan initially said he allowed He to win “because he is my friend”. “He comes to Kenya and I was [pacing for him] in the Wuxi Marathon, so he is my friend, OK,” Mnangat told the South China Morning Post.

Mnangat said the three African runners, as well as a fourth who did not finish the race, were hired to pace He to a Chinese half marathon record.

“I don’t know why they put my name on my bib/chest number instead of labelling it as a pacemaker,” Mnangat told the BBC. “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.”

Winning in a time of 1:03.44, He fell short of the record by one minute and 11 seconds, while Mnangat, Keter and Bikila tied for second place.

The Beijing Sports Bureau confirmed to AFP they were investigating the circumstances around the finish and any results would be “promptly disclosed to the public”.

In a statement World Athletics said: “We are aware of the footage circulating online from the Beijing half marathon this weekend and understand an investigation is currently being conducted by the relevant local authorities. The integrity of our sport is the highest priority at World Athletics, while this investigation is ongoing we are unable to provide further comment.”