L.A. Marathon Runner Disqualified for Cheating Found Dead in California River

A 70-year-old marathon runner who was recently disqualified from a race amid accusations of cheating was found deceased in the Los Angeles River yesterday.

KABC-TV reported the Los Angeles Police Department responded just before 10 a.m. Thursday to a report of a body in the river, later confirmed as the runner. The cause of death remains under investigation.

Dr. Frank Meza was under intense scrutiny in recent months after images emerged which appeared to show him leaving the course of the Skechers Performance L.A. Marathon in March—despite him posting a record result for his age group. Meza finished at 2:53:10. His closest competitor managed 4:10:07.

The death was confirmed by Meza's wife Tina, who told The Daily Beast he left the home on Thursday morning and said he was going out for a run. "I'll see you later," he reportedly said at the time.

Meza's performance and history was picked apart online after the posting of his result in March. One forum on the website LetsRun.com racked up responses spanning hundreds of pages. In May, an in-depth analysis by researcher Derek Murphy for MarathonInvestigation.com gained attention in the community.

An image surfaced which appeared to show Meza emerging onto the course from a sidewalk, indicating that he had left the designated marathon area for an undisclosed amount of time.

The allegation was firmly denied by the veteran runner, who claimed he had briefly left the course to find a bathroom. In a statement, he told Murphy: "I cannot recall exactly where on the course but I did pull off to pee one time. I was not able to find a portapotty so I found a building wall maybe 20 yards from street."

Derek Murphy Meza Addresses Team, Coaches as Disqualification Looms: This weekend The LA Times reported on the controversy regarding Dr. Frank Meza. It was… https://t.co/3L1hcmzolJ Via @MarathnInvestgr #MarathonInvestigation #DerekMurphy #blog #UltraRunning #Triathlon #Marathon pic.twitter.com/ZU5K5gghqg

— hamptonrunner (@hamptonrunner) June 25, 2019

On July 4, the day Meza's body was found, another investigation was published which cast doubts on the runner's earlier performances. An image appeared to show him riding on a bicycle during a 2014 foot race in San Francisco in which he also finished top in his age group. "It is irrefutable," Murphy wrote.

The investigator released a statement as news of the runner's death spread.

Murphy said: "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."

On Monday, L.A. Marathon organizers formally disqualified Meza—a retired physician.

A formal statement read: "After an extensive review of original video evidence from official race cameras and security cameras at retail locations along the race course, 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]."

Speaking to The Daily Beast this week, Meza's wife characterized the accusations as "manufactured lies." She said: "He couldn't figure out why people were willing to listen to this. We don't understand why he was attacked. He was just a soft-spoken, nice person. It hurt him deeply."

Los Angeles Marathon
Runners cross the finish line of the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon on March 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. A 70-year-old marathon runner disqualified amid accusations of cheating was found dead in the Los Angeles River Thursday. Meg Oliphant/Getty