A 70-year-old runner who was disqualified from the Los Angeles Marathon last week and was found dead in the Los Angeles River on July 4 committed suicide, authorities said Monday.
Retired Dr. Frank Meza, 70, of South Pasadena, died from multiple blunt force traumatic injuries in a suicide, the coroner’s office concluded following an autopsy.
The Los Angeles Police Department responded to a report of a body in the river lying in shallow water shortly before 10 a.m. Thursday in the Cypress Park area, ABC7 reported.
The disqualification of Meza, who set a record time for his age group in the L.A. Marathon, sent shock waves through the running community.
Meza finished the marathon with an official time of 2:53:10. The next person behind him in the group finished with a time of 4:10:07.
The performance was so astonishing that marathon investigator Derek Murphy took a closer look and said he found video that showed Meza leaving the course.
“What you see is he comes onto the course after being along the sidewalk for an unknown period of time,’ Murphy said. “I looked back 6 minutes (on the video) and he was never on the portion of the course leading up to the sidewalk so it showed me he didn’t run that full part of the course.’
The marathon disqualified Meza for alleged cheating and awarded the win for the age group to the second finisher. Meza said he was looking for a restroom and did not take a short cut. Meza’s other marathon times are also under scrutiny, including the 2019 Sprouts Mesa-Phoenix Marathon.
Meza’s wife, Tina, told The Daily Beast that he had been devastated by the allegations that he had cut the course in several races.
“Running was very important to my husband. He had been running marathons for the last 30 or 40 years. He was very fast, quite fast, and now unfortunately he won’t run marathons any more,” she said.
On Thursday morning, she said, Meza told her he was going out for a run. I said, “It will be good for you,” and he said, “I’ll see you later.”
At around 10 a.m., according to ABC7, rescue workers found Meza in the river.
In May, Derek Murphy published an analysis of several races run by Meza, including photos that raised questions about whether he was a course-cutter.
Meza denied it. In an interview with Canadian Running magazine, he admitted leaving the course but said it was innocent.
“What I can tell you is that I did not cut. My last few marathons I have had to step off the course, looking for a place to pee. I didn’t know this was against the rules, I was not aware of that,” he said. “I’ve done this several times. I’ve realized my problem is that I don’t hydrate properly. I have never cut the distance but I have stepped off of the course.”
On July 1, the organization that runs the L.A. Marathon completed its review and disqualified Meza.
Meza founded Aztlan Track Club in 1974. He also coached cross country track at Loyola High School in Los Angeles.
The school said he stepped down in June for health reasons.