A Chinese marathon official has been banned for a year after he redirected an elite runner away from the finish line, in a mistake that almost changed the outcome of the race.
Kenyan runner Biegon Andrew Kiplangat was leading the pack in the Qingdao Marathon on May 4, and had entered the final 300-meter sprint when the guide car he was following exited the track, according to a report Monday on Tencent Sports.
Despite his competition being only meters behind him, Kiplangat followed the guided car off the track. Event organizers directed him back on course, and Kiplangat managed to win with a time of 2 hours, 22 minutes and 17 seconds despite the diversion.
The second place holder – who was also from Kenya – was less than 4 seconds behind, according to the Tencent Sports report.
On May 10, the Chinese Athletic Association (CAA) penalized marathon official Huang Jianyi, banning him from overseeing marathons for a year.
Huang broke the guidelines by riding in the guide car and leading the runners, the CAA said in a notice on May 10.
“At a critical position in the race route, he did not guide properly, which resulted in the lead runner running in the wrong direction while approaching the final sprint,” the notice continued.
“As a result, the CAA will be canceling Huang Jianyi’s marathon officiating and other officiating credentials for one year.”
It’s just the latest mishap in China’s marathons, which have been marred by cheating in the past.
In November, more than 200 runners were disqualified from the half marathon in Shenzhen, in south China. After the race, organizers found that 258 runners had cheated, with some taking shortcuts while other hired people to run for them.
Earlier that month, a Chinese runner in Suzhou was handed a Chinese national flag from a “volunteer” as she attempted to overtake the front runner, an Ethiopian competitor. The incident sparked online debate, with some internet users condemning the athlete He Yinli for dropping the flag, while others were frustrated that the interference could have cost her the race.