Frank Meza, the 70-year-old distance runner who had his age group–record time at the L.A. Marathon disqualified on Monday after officials deemed that he had cheated, was found dead in the Los Angeles River on Thursday morning, according to local TV station ABC 7.
ABC 7 has a few more details:
The Los Angeles Police Department responded to a report of a body in the river lying in shallow water shortly before 10 a.m. in the Cypress Park area.
The cause of death is not suspected to be from drowning, officials said.
Meza’s recorded time of 2:53:10 at March’s L.A. Marathon immediately aroused suspicion. Derek Murphy at Marathon Investigation pored over the video of the race and spotted numerous anomalies, where Meza would just appear out of nowhere from off the side of the track. Murphy also went over Meza’s past marathon times and noted his dubiously steady improvement during his 60s.
Update [July 8, 2019 5:55 p.m.]: The local coroner has now officially ruled Meza’s death a suicide, saying he died of “multiple blunt force traumatic injuries.” Police originally responded to the scene after being alerted that someone had jumped off the bridge nearby where Meza’s body was found.
In light of the news of Meza’s death, Murphy released a statement on Marathon Investigation that reads in part:
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.
Meza had denied the accusations of cheating, explaining that his appearances from off the track on the video recordings were simply moments when he stepped off to the side to pee. Meza was twice disqualified from the California International Marathon for suspected cheating, and was subsequently banned from the competition. He had pledged to run in next year’s L.A. Marathon while accompanied by an official observer to prove the validity of his times.