LOS ANGELES (AP) — A marathon runner has been found dead in the Los Angeles River, days after he was disqualified from the Los Angeles Marathon following allegations of cheating.
The body of Dr. Frank Meza, 70, was discovered shortly before 10 a.m. Thursday, authorities said. Sarah Ardalani, a spokeswoman for the coroner’s office, said an autopsy is pending.
The Los Angeles Times reported Meza as the man found dead and a medical license and voter registration records match his home address and date of birth.
Meza, a retired physician who began entering marathons in his 60s after coaching young athletes, had denied the allegations of cheating. He had come under suspicion for his fast splits and finishes in marathons statewide but claimed it was impossible for him to prove he didn’t cheat. He did say he had stopped to relieve himself, but said he ran the entire 26.2 miles (42.2 kilometers).
“My take on all this, it was supposed to be fun,” he told the Times. “Obviously it’s not fun anymore.”
Meza’s family could not immediately be reached by The Associated Press on Friday for comment.
Meza’s wife, Tina, told the Daily Beast her husband had been devastated by the allegations. He told her Thursday he was heading out for a run.
The Los Angeles Marathon disqualified Meza’s finish in this year’s race after they said he left the course and came back from a different position. His time of 2 hours 53 minutes 10 seconds had been the fastest ever for a man his age and triggered suspicion within the running community, which began investigating.
The marathon said in a June 28 statement that it had video evidence and an eyewitness report.
“We (are) deeply saddened to learn of the death of Dr. Frank Meza,” Conqur Endurance Group, the marathon’s operator, said in a statement Friday. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
Meza had told the Times he’d planned to enter the 2020 race to prove he could finish in less than three hours.
Derek Murphy, an amateur investigator who operates the website MarathonInvestigation.com and probed Meza’s finishes in multiple races, posted on the site that he was also “deeply saddened” by the death.
“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,” Murphy wrote.