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Beijing half-marathon under investigation after runners allegedly slow down to let Chinese athlete win

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a spectator waves a national flag as runners compete in the Beijing Marathon in Beijing, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022. (Song Yanhua / Xinhua via AP) In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a spectator waves a national flag as runners compete in the Beijing Marathon in Beijing, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022. (Song Yanhua / Xinhua via AP)
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HONG KONG -

Beijing authorities are investigating Sunday's Beijing's half-marathon after footage shared online showed three African runners appearing to slow down near the finish line to allow China's He Jie to overtake them and win.

He won in a time of 1:03:44, a second ahead of Ethiopian Dejene Hailu Bikila and Kenyans Robert Keter and Willy Mnangat, who all tied for the second place.

Videos, which Reuters was attempting to verify, showed the three African runners waving He, who was slightly behind them, in front and gesturing towards the finish line. All four had run together for the entire race of just over 13 miles.

He, a member of China's marathon team and national marathon record holder.

The event's organizer - the Beijing Sports Competition Management and International Exchange Center - referred a Reuters enquiry to the half-marathon's organizing committee.

The Beijing Sports Bureau, the municipal body in charge of sports, said an investigation was under way and the findings would be published later.

The state-controlled Global Times newspaper said He's performance "drew skepticism as the three African runners seem to deliberately slow down for He to catch up."

But many comments on social media were scathing, calling the race "embarrassing" or a "performance."

Distance running is increasingly popular in China but races have a checkered history of cheating and poor organization. In Shenzhen's 2018 half-marathon, 258 participants were caught cheating. Most had taken shortcuts while some wore fake bibs and others were imposters.

(Reporting by Farah Master and the Beijing newsroom; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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