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L.A. Marathon disqualifies senior runner Frank Meza for alleged cheating

Frank Meza (right) is seen running in the Sketchers Los Angeles Marathon Photo by FinisherPix
Los Angeles Marathon officials disqualified Frank Meza’s result from the 2019 race.
(FinisherPix)

The Los Angeles Marathon disqualified 70-year-old runner Frank Meza, saying that video cameras show he left the course for a portion of his record-setting performance in March and that his time during one stretch was so fast as to be “impossible.”

Though Meza has repeatedly denied cheating, he has come under scrutiny with the long-distance community questioning his finish in 2 hours 53 minutes 10 seconds — the fastest ever for a man his age.

Amid the accusations, officials with Conqur Endurance Group, which operates the marathon, began reviewing video from race cameras and security cameras at retail stores along the 26.2 miles from Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica.

The footage showed Meza, a retired physician, stepped off the course and reentered at another point, officials said.

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“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,” they stated, adding that his pace would have been “an impossible feat during a marathon.”

It might seem unlikely that an elderly, recreational runner could become the topic of national debate, but the marathon community takes its ethics seriously and has been left distrustful by a history of fraud.

The Meza story has sparked thousands of online posts, followed by a series of articles on the website marathoninvestigation.com, which cited video and statistical evidence suggesting he cheated in more than one event.

On Monday, Meza reiterated his previous assertion that, during last spring’s race, he left the course in search of a restroom and continued along the sidewalk for some distance before finding one.

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“I didn’t cut the course,” he said.

Officials also cited him for wearing his numbered bib on his hip instead of pinning it to his shirt, which has raised concerns that he passed the bib to another runner for a portion of the marathon.

Unlike many serious runners, Meza said he has never carried a GPS device that might confirm his location at all times. Asked about the unusually fast 5K pace cited by officials, he could not offer an explanation.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I wish I did.”

Before this spring, Meza was better known for devoting his free time to low-cost health care and mentoring Latino students. He is a lifelong runner who has served as an assistant coach for track and cross country at Los Angeles Loyola High.

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It wasn’t until age 60 that he began entering marathons and, after a few years, showing significant progress.

As his results improved, the California International Marathon twice questioned his irregular splits, the times recorded at various points along its Sacramento course.

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Officials disqualified him in both instances and ultimately banned him from the event.

The L.A. Marathon initially voiced concerns about Meza in 2015, asking him to run the following year with an official observer. He chose instead to enter a Northern California marathon in 2016.

With this latest disqualification, L.A. officials have again asked Meza to run with an observer. He said he plans to enter in 2020 to prove he can finish the marathon in less than three hours.

“That’s my only silver lining,” he said.

david.wharton@latimes.com

Follow @LAtimesWharton on Twitter


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