Cutting corners means not making a goal. Knowing this, 70-year-old Frank Meza must have been crushed to the point of suicide. This wasn’t the first time he had been accused of cheating. He’d been disqualified from two previous marathons over cheating suspicions.
This tragedy raises an ethical question over putting amateur athletes under a microscope, when there are no consequences of a cheating violation as there would be in a professional match.
The long time runner, coach, and doctor was found dead in the Los Angeles River a week after his times were questioned and he was disqualified. A bystander reported a possible jumper, but by the time police got there it was apparently too late.
His time was more than an hour faster than those in his age group. He was accused of violating several rules, including coming back into the race from a different place than where he left it. Does that really matter though?
Derek Murphy runs a website devoted to accusations of marathon cheating which has been debated and questioned by the running community. Murphy’s website is the first choice for hobbyists and those concerned about cheating in the sport. He complies data from each race to determine if any cheating has happened.
A number of articles appeared about Meza on this site, aiding the Long Angeles Marathon officials in their investigation. Murphy had posted pictures of Meza regularly.
Meza’s wife Tina is baffled by the accusations. He was soft spoken, a nice person, she doesn’t understand why he was criticized. The numbers tell a story she may not have known.
Meza’s time was so fast for his age group that there were immediate accusations from other runners. He thought Meza should come clean.
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Many people have been denied entry into races like the Boston Marathon because cheaters get better qualifying times. Of course the winner of a prize should come under some scrutiny if there is evidence another runner deserved it, but for the rest of the pack, a cheater has only his conscience to face.
Murphy had reached out to Meza for his side of the story, which he does with each article. Murphy’s been receiving emails since Meza’s death on both sides, both supportive and telling Murphy he “has blood on his hands.”