PYONGYANG, North Korea (CBSNewYork) — Two North Korean marathon runners are accused of cheating during a race to qualify for the Olympics.
South African athletes manager Dewald Steyn told Race Results Weekly that Ra Hyon-ho and Ri Kwang-bom cut the course during the Mangyongdae Prize Pyongyang Marathon North Korea to hit the Olympic qualifying time of 2:19:00 set by the International Association of Athletics Federations.
Ra finished fourth at 2:15:45, while Ri came in fifth at 2:16:25 during the April 10 marathon.
“This year I again managed a team of athletes from Africa with my son as co-manager,” Steyn told Race Results Weekly. “I was stationed at the 30-kilometer refreshment station while my son was stationed at the 35-kilometer refreshment point.”
Steyn continued, “At 35 kilometers the lead group was still the same, but [Cephas] Pasipamire joined them. The rest was still the same and my son reported that my Africa team had six athletes in the top 10.”
Pak Chol-gwang of North Korea, Ketema Bekele Negassa of Ethiopia and Morris Murethi Mwange of Kenya finished first, second and third. However, as Race Results Weekly reported, Ra and Ri finished fourth and fifth, despite never passing Kelvin Pangiso of Zimbabwe or Pasipamire on the course.
“When we complained we were told that they have an electronic chip system that they can investigate,” Steyn told Race Results Weekly. “It took more than three weeks to produce these results, while they just ignored all correspondence to them. It however seems like the chip system failed and they also did not report results further than number seven. Cephas Pasipamire and Kelvin Pangiso, who finished more than 50 meters apart, were given the same time of 2:17:00.”
Steyn also stated that Negassa would have won the marathon if he didn’t follow the wrong vehicle when it turned into the stadium.
“Another problem in the race was that except for the time car that appeared into the stadium about 50 meters in front of the leading athlete, another car with officials drove direct in front of the leading athlete and turned left into the stadium,” Steyn explained. “With no marshal present to direct the athlete he followed the car. This athlete, Ketema Bekele Negassa, was leading by about 30 meters, but when people started shouting and he looked back, he saw Pak Chol-gwang of the DPRK running the opposite direction and leaving him behind to win the race.”
Steyn added, “These people saw me as their friend having been responsible for 60 to 80 percent of their foreign athletes over a 12-year period, but this is totally unacceptable while they refuse to communicate with me. They will most probably not ask me to bring athletes again if I reveal this, but to me this is as bad as taking drugs – refusing to accept that their athletes did not run the full race but thereby qualifying for the Olympics.”