70-Year-Old LA Marathon Runner Dr. Frank Meza Commits Suicide After Being Accused Of Cheating For Better Race Time

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70-Year-Old LA Marathon Runner Dr. Frank Meza Commits Suicide After Being Accused Of Cheating For Better Race Time

For most people, a record-breaking marathon time is a dream come true. For Frank Meza, a doctor from California, his stunning finish time in the 2019 LA marathon resulted in cheating allegations and online investigations into his whole running career. He was retroactively disqualified from the race his results were vacated. Then, on July 4th, Meza was found dead in the Los Angeles River. His death has been ruled a suicide and his family blames the cheating scandal. Who is Frank Meza and what happened to him? Read on for all the details.

1. Marathon

Frank Meza started running marathons in his 60s, after years of running shorter distances, according to Outside Online. He was strictly an amateur runner, with no sponsors behind him. The physician and volunteer running coach for a local high school finished multiple marathons over the course of a decade, improving his time from 3 hours and 19 minutes to under 3 hours. But his times raised some eyebrows, especially when race organizers noted irregularities in his splits or the times in which he ran certain segments of the races. The suspicions caused him to be retroactively disqualified from both the 2014 and 2016 California International Marathon, and he was then banned from running the race in the future. When he ran a record-setting pace for the 2019 LA Marathon, some users of the online forum LetsRun started asking questions.

Eventually, blogger Derek Murphy, who runs the site Marathon Inestigations, dedicated to exposing cheating in marathons and other distance races, started to look into the matter. He found a great deal of evidence that Meza was course cutting, saying he had exited and re-enetered the course at different points, thus shaving crucial minutes off his overall time. Meza denied the allegations completely. But Murphy continued looking into Meza’s 2019 LA Marathon performance and evidence of past cheating, as well. He wrote a total of nine posts on the subject.

Meza's running history was complicated.

2. Disqualification

All the unofficial investigations and reports to the organizers of the race led to an official inquiry of Meza’s performance. Conqur Endurance Group, which manages the Los Angeles Marathon, found enough irregularities to move to disqualify him retroactively. A press release read: “After an extensive review of original video evidence from official race cameras and security cameras at retail locations along the racecourse, Conqur Endurance Group has 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 video evidence is confirmed by a credible eyewitness report and our calculation that Dr. Meza’s actual running time for at least one 5K course segment would have had to have been faster than the current 70-74 age group 5K world-record [an impossible feat during a marathon].”

The disqualification meant new people were the official top finishers in the men 70-74 age group.

He was disqaulified from the race after the fact.

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3. Death

On July 4th, Meza reportedly went out for a run and told his wife he would see her for lunch. He was found later, dead, at the bottom of the Los Angeles River. The coroner reported to Buzzfeed that he sustained multiple blunt force traumatic injuries and the initial ruling on his death was suicide.

Meza's death is being treated as a suicide.

4. Harassment

The online investigations of Meza’s marathon times and the accusations about the different ways in which he had cheated took an emotional toll on the 70-year-old athlete. Between the multiple posts on Marathon Investigations and the comments by users at LetsRun, a website for runners, Meza felt that he was under attack. There were literally hundreds of comments on Lets Run talking about him, many of which were decidedly uncomplimentary. Meza himself referred to the experience as “traumatic”, according to Buzzfeed. In the wake of his death, his daughter was quick to blame the internet comments for influencing her father’s state of mind, saying “He was targeted, bullied and we tried to defend him the best we could. He was so devastated that people could actually believe this.”

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His family beleives the online activity contrinuted to his state of mind.

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5. Response

Derek Murphy, the man behind Marathon Investigations posted a statement about Meza’s death, writing: "I am deeply saddened to learn of Frank Meza’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. 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. At this time, I will have no further comments to the media.” He also shut down the Facebook page associated with the blog out of respect.

The commenters on LetsRun were also shocked and saddened and some even seemed to reflect on the role the site had played in this tragedy. In a column on Outside Online, Martin Huber noted that one commenter on LetsRun pointed out that the online investigation had achieved the goal of vacating Meza’s results but the cost may have been his life, saying: “Doc killed himself [sic] today. Cheater or not a cheater, was this worth it? You all figured out he cheated in his races and got [sic] him dq’d. Honestly, as someone familiar with USATF rules and a fellow marathon runner, thank you? But also, get lost.”

We need to think about how we treat others online. 

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free from anywhere in the U.S. at 1-800-273-8255.

Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. Her work has been seen at Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, The Mid, Redbook online, and The Broad Side. She is the creator of the blog Stay at Home Pundit and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.