Veteran marathon runner found dead amid cheating allegations committed suicide, coroner says

The family of a veteran marathon runner found dead in a California river believe he took his own life because of the bullying he received upon being disqualified from a Los Angeles race over his “impossible” finish time.

The Los Angeles County Coroner on Monday ruled that 70-year-old Frank Meza died from multiple blunt force traumatic injuries and ruled his death a suicide. Authorities found his body floating in shallow waters near the Cypress Park area of the Los Angeles River on the Fourth of July, just days after he was disqualified from the Los Angeles Marathon over cheating allegations.

The retired physician finished the March race with a speedy time of 2 hours and 53 minutes, clocking in a whopping two hours ahead of his closest competition. He not only won the race, but broke a record for his age group of 70 to 74.

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The impressive time sparked a months-long controversy, with the running community immediately questioning its legitimacy. His record was eventually labeled “impossible” and tossed by marathon officials, who said they possessed video evidence showing Meza cut the course.

Meza’s family however has denied the cheating allegations and blame the media and community response for his death.

“He was targeted, bullied and we tried to defend him the best we could,” his daughter, Lorena Meza told CNN. “He was so devastated that people could actually believe this.”

His wife, Tina Nevarez, added that Meza “never cuts courses,” and that he was an “honest man” with “integrity.”

But his most recent disqualification is not the first time Meza has courted controversy in the running community. In 2014, the California International Marathon threw out his time of 2 hours and 52 minutes over questions regarding his unusually fast split times in the final mile, the Los Angeles Times reported.

He was again disqualified from the same race two years later – again over irregular split times. Meza was also subsequently barred from the marathon, according to the newspaper.

According to marathoninvestigates.com, Meza’s finish times had actually been dropping the older he became.

“I got better because I started running almost twice what I used to,” he previously told the Times. “I just increased my mileage.”

The running community and race organizers over the weekend shared their condolences with Meza’s family, including Conqur, which runs the Los Angeles Marathon.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Dr. Frank Meza,” the company said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

With News Wire Services

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