He Jie stripped of victory at 2024 Beijing Half Marathon. GETTY IMAGES

Chinese state media reported on Friday that reigning Asian Games marathon champion He Jie and three African runners, who had appeared to allow the home athlete to cross the line first, had been stripped of their placings and prize money.

Social media was abuzz after Sunday's race as video footage showed the three Africans - Kenyans Robert Keter and Willy Mnangat, and Ethiopia’s Dejene Hailu Bikila - slow down and wave He to the front metres from the finish line.

Mnangat told BBC Sport Africa that the three were among four pacemakers who had been hired to help He break the Chinese half-marathon record. "I was not there to compete. It was not a competitive race for me," admitted the Kenyan. "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."

Race organisers soon announced they would be investigating the finish. According to AFP, a state media report on Friday said all four runners had been "punished" with their results cancelled and that "trophies, medals and bonuses will be recovered".

The South China Morning Post reported, "The race investigation said that Mnangat, Keter and Hailu had not been properly registered as pacemakers for He, so their actions on the finish line breached competition rules."