Three marathon runners – Wu Zhaofeng, Zhao Baoying and Zhang Jianhua – were suspended for life from participating in any race in China by the country's athletic association, announced the organization on Thursday.
The Chinese Athletic Association (CAA) said the ban was for forging their times to qualify for the 2019 Boston Marathon.
According to the CAA, Wu and Zhao forged their domestic marathon performance records to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Zhang gave the race number to someone else, who ran the marathon for Zhang instead. When CAA reached out to them, all three refused to talk.
Therefore, the association made the decision to ban the three runners from attending any marathon or related events in China.
Before the 2019 Boston Marathon started on Monday, there were already reports circulating online about a few Chinese runners who fabricated their personal best records for the Boston Marathon – which requires runners to qualify.
Then on Tuesday (Beijing Time), a user named "Arale girl runner" wrote a post online, thanking someone who finished the Boston Marathon posing as her, accompanied by pictures of the medal, the race, sneakers and a screenshot of WeChat conversation.
Soon photos of another runner raised more doubts. A male runner, given the number 901, finished the marathon with a time of five hours and 26 minutes. His time was inconsistent with his race number, which indicates your ranking based on your qualifying time – a smaller number indicates faster times. With a number under one thousand, he should have finished the race at around the three hour mark.
More information was then found about No.901. His name was Wu Zhaofeng. Performance records in 2018 show that his best time was at the Dalian International Marathon, where he finished in two hours, 43 minutes and 46 seconds. The rest of his races took him longer than four hours and 30 minutes. By the way, Wu's record for half marathon was two hours and 20 minutes.
According to those who searched Wu's face among athletes of the 2018 Dalian International Marathon using facial recognition, Wu was not spotted at all. Some runners believe that it's impossible for a runner with such speed not be caught by any camera, so there's a good chance that Wu had someone else finish the Dalian International Marathon posing as him to get that record.
According to Shanghai Observer, Wu used the 2:43:46 record to register for following marathons in Shanghai, Xiamen and Wuxi but it took him no shorter than five hours to finish any of them.
Most runners support CAA's decision of suspending the three black sheep with comments like "These three must be made examples for all runner." "We want to win, but also with honor." "We must do this in a fair to show that we respect others and sportsmanship."