Organizers of a Chinese marathon have apologized for not noticing the winner, and then accusing him of cheating, state media reported Sunday.
Amateur athlete Gong Chao crossed the finish line in 2 hours, 52 minutes in the eastern coastal city of Yantai, but was disqualified after not appearing in the official video of the first three runners, the Xinhua news agency reported.
The 29-year-old Shandong province native took to the internet to declare his innocence, and his campaign garnered growing social media support during the past week.
“The organizers investigated and have the evidence that shows the athlete with the number F0428 did not violate any rules,” Yintai International Marathon organizers reportedly said Saturday.
“So his result is valid. He will be given the full-marathon champion’s prize. We apologize for our neglect.”
The three other finishers will drop down one place but can keep their prize money, Xinhua said.
“I want to thank my fellow runners, the media and all my friends who believed in me and supported me,” Gong said.