On the day of 70-year-old Frank Meza's death, the site Marathon Investigation posted photos of him allegedly riding a bike in the 2014 San Francisco marathon
A 70-year-old marathon runner embroiled in a cheating scandal was found dead in the Los Angeles River Thursday morning.
Police responded to a report of a body floating in shallow water but have not determined a cause of death, although drowning has been ruled out.
Frank Meza, a doctor from Los Angeles, attracted notoriety in the running world for completing marathons in fewer than three hours — the fastest anyone has finished in his age group. However, the extraordinary finish times led to accusations of cheating, particularly by Marathon Investigation , a website that tracks runners suspected of gaming the rules, and letsrun.com , a forum for runners.
Meza’s death comes just days after the L.A. marathon disqualified him for finishing with an “impossible” time during the March marathon. The 70-year-old athlete completed the course in 2:53:10.
Officials “determined that Dr. Frank Meza violated a number of race rules during the 2019 Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon, including re-entering the course from a position other than where he left it,” the statement read.
Once disqualified, his first-place win was given to the next best competitor in the mens 70-74 group, Dan Adams, who finished the race in 4:10:07.
Meza told the L.A. Times , he left the race course in search of a washroom and continued on the sidewalk for some time before finding one.
“I didn’t cut the course,” he said on July 1.
The day of his death, Marathon Investigation posted photos that showed Meza allegedly riding a bike in 2014 on the route of the San Francisco marathon, instead of running.
In a statement posted Friday, the site operator Derek Murphy said he was “deeply saddened” after learning of the marathoner’s death.
“My heart goes out to his family and friends, and I wish for everyone to be respectful and to keep his loved ones in mind,” he wrote. “There will be a time for comment and a broader discussion, but at this point, I feel that we should all allow those close to Frank the space to grieve.”
The National Post reached out to Murphy to get comment on whether he believed his sleuthing might have contributed to Meza’s death. “I do not feel it is appropriate or sensitive to the family or friends to make any further public comments at this time,” he said in an email.
Runner’s World named Meza one of its 2014 Masters Long Distance Runners of the Year for his age group and since about 2015, his finishing times were almost always under three hours.
Meza’s wife, Tina, told the Daily Beast that he had been devastated by the cheating accusations.
“Running was very important to my husband. He had been running marathons for the last 30 or 40 years. He was very fast, quite fast, and now unfortunately he won’t run marathons anymore,” she said.
Some commenters on letsrun.com shared words of condolences after Meza’s death came to light.
One person commented that they still believe in holding runners accountable, but “we need to remember that they are actual people (and possibly dealing with mental illness).”
Meza had previously been disqualified twice from the Californian International Marathon, once in 2014 and then again in 2016. After the 2016 disqualification, he was banned from competing again.
The son of Mexican immigrants, Meza had been running his whole life. He competed during high school and returned to the sport after completing medical school, the L.A. Times reported. He began as an assistant coach for Loyola High and helped out with the Aztlan Track Club, a grassroots organization that helped develop young athletes.
“Doc Meza had such a positive impact on so many of our lives,” said Scott Dominguez, who was an athlete at Loyola High in the mid-1990s. “We will always remember him as our coach, mentor, friend and an incredible runner. He inspired all of us to be our best during workouts, races and in life. He gave us so much and never asked for anything in return.”
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