Beijing half marathon winner loses medal after competitors slowed down to let him win

China's top long-distance runner has been stripped of his first-place finish in the Beijing half marathon.

An investigation has confirmed that three African runners slowed down to let Hi Jie win the race that took place last weekend.

Questions were raised when footage of the end of the race emerged on social media, showing three of the runners reducing their speed to allow China's top long-distance runner to move ahead of them.

Mr Jie finished first in a time of 1:03:44, a second ahead of Ethiopian Dejene Hailu Bikila, and Kenyans Robert Keter and Willy Mnangat, who tied for second place.

Now all four runners have been disqualified and made to return their medals and prize money.

According to a statement from a committee set up to investigate the race, the three African runners "actively slowed down in the last 2 kilometres and as a result He Jie won the men's championship".

The special committee added that four runners had been originally hired as pacemakers by a sponsor, Xiamen Xtep Investment, but the main organisers of the race had not been told this.

Xtep claimed that staff had made a mistake during the registration process and did not identify the pacemakers.

"We bear a great responsibility and fully accept the punishment decision made by the organising committee," Xtep said in a statement.

While one pacemaker didn't finish, the other three slowed to let Mr Jie, a member of China's marathon team and national record holder, win.

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The committee's statement did not acknowledge whether the race had been rigged, but did issue an apology.

"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.

Zhong'ao Lupao Sports Management Co, the main organiser, is losing its right to host the Beijing half marathon as a result of the incident.