By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2016 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
(11-May) — Eleven times over a 12 year period, South African athletes manager Dewald Steyn brought elite runners to the Mangyongdae Prize Pyongyang Marathon North Korea in April. By his own reckoning, he supplied 60% of the foreign athletes for this event over that time.
But now Steyn doesn’t think he’ll do business with the race again after alleging that two North Korean runners, Ra Hyon-ho and Ri Kwang-bom, cut the course in order to obtain Olympic Games qualifying times. In the official results they finished fourth and fifth in 2:15:45 and 2:16:25, respectively, comfortably under the required 2:19:00 minimum mandated by the IAAF. The race was held on April 10.
“This year I again managed a team of athletes from Africa with my son as co-manager,” Steyn wrote in an e-mail to Race Results Weekly. “I was stationed at the 30 km refreshment station while my son was stationed at the 35 km refreshment point.”
The course-cutting took place after the 35-K point, Steyn said, after a pack of four runners –Ketema Bekele Negassa of Ethiopia, Morris Murethi Mwange of Kenya, Pak Chol-gwang of of North Korea, and Kelvin Pangiso of Zimbabwe– passed his son. At the 30-K point, Steyn observed another athlete, Cephas Pasipamire of Zimbabwe, another 15 meters behind, and about 50 meters further back was Mattheews Mutanya of Zambia. The two North Koreans, Ra and Ri, came past next another 100 meters back, running with Namibia’s Simon Chipangana.
“At 35 kilometers the lead group was still the same, but Pasipamire (had) joined them,” Steyn wrote. “The rest was still the same and my son reported that my Africa team had six athletes in the top ten.”
However at the finish line, after Pak, Negassa and Mwange had finished one-two-three, Ra and Ri came past the post next in fourth and fifth, despite having never passed either Pangiso or Pasipamire, according to what the athletes told Steyn. He was outraged, and protested.
“When we complained we were told that they have an electronic chip system that they can investigate,” Steyn continued. “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 alleged that a marshaling error cost Negassa the victory. He had been leading the race by a big margin right before the finish, but followed 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 wrote. “With no marshall 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.”
While Steyn admitted that trying to protect the earnings of his athletes was a concern, he was more worried about the lack of fair play. Cheating, he said, can’t be overlooked.
“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.”