70-year-old doctor disqualified from L.A. Marathon after online outrage, investigation

Frank Meza broke a Los Angeles Marathon record in March when he crossed the finish line in 2:53:10, the fastest time ever for a 70-year-old man.

The time was too fast, some proclaimed, prompting in investigation into his race. The next fastest time in his age group was recorded by Dan Adams at 4:10:07.

‘Impossible’ time

On Monday, the L.A. Marathon agreed with Meza’s skeptics, deeming one stretch of Meza’s race “impossible” and disqualifying the runner.

Even though there’s often little to nothing at stake in these races outside of the top finishers, the marathon community is serious about the integrity of the sport.

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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 24: A runner high-fives volunteers after finishing the 2019 Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon on March 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 24: A runner stops to rest following the finish of the 2019 Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon on March 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 24: A pack of elite male runners crosses in front of Walt Disney Concert Hall during the 2019 Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon on March 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 24: Tony Safran takes a cup of water from a volunteer during the 2019 Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon on March 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 24: Runners run by the Walt Disney Concert Hall during the 2019 Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon on March 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 24: Drew Woodside crosses the finish line of the 2019 Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon on March 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 24: Sketchers Performance Los Angeles Marathon medals hang near the finish line on March 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 24: Elisha Barno of Kenya crosses the finish line to win the 2019 Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon in 2 hours, 11 minutes, 45 seconds on March 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 24: Askale Marachi of Ethiopia crosses the finish line to win the 2019 Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon in a course record of 2 hours, 24 minutes, 11 seconds on March 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 24: Elisha Barno of Kenya wins the men's division of the Sketchers Performance Los Angeles Marathon on March 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 24: Tyler McCandless is the first American elite male runner to finish the 34th Running Of The Skechers Los Angeles Marathon on March 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Conqur Endurance Group)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 24: Justin Turner (L) and Albert Pujols attend LA Celebrates The 34th Running Of The Skechers Los Angeles Marathon on March 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Conqur Endurance Group)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 24: Handcycle athletes start the race at LA Celebrates The 34th Running Of The Skechers Los Angeles Marathon on March 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Conqur Endurance Group)
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Meza drew ire of online running community

MarathonInvestigation.com — a website obsessively dedicated to holding race cheaters accountable — and much of the rest of the online running community set its sights squarely on Meza after his result.

“At this point I have no doubt,” site operator Derek Murphy told the Los Angeles Times in June about Meza cheating in the race.

Officials: Meza left course, returned at different point

L.A. Marathon officials reached the same conclusion after an investigation, determining via video footage that Mesa left the course and returned at a different point.

“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,” a statement released on Monday read. “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].”

Meza maintains his innocence

According to the Times, Meza, a doctor, has maintained throughout the controversy that he ran the race cleanly. He didn’t back off his stance on Monday.

“I didn’t cut the course,” Meza said.

Meza told the Times that he exited the course simply to find a bathroom.

Why would Meza cheat?

The Times profiled Meza, describing him as an active community member who devotes his free time to low-cost health care, mentors Latino students and is an assistant track coach at Los Angeles Loyola High.

It also reports that he’s a serial marathon cheater who has twice been disqualified and ultimately banned from the California International Marathon.

A recreational runner, Meza told the Times in June that the scrutiny was taking its toll.

“My take on all this, it was supposed to be fun. Obviously it’s not fun anymore.”

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