Man, 70, Who Was Accused of Cheating in L.A. Marathon, Found Dead in Local River
Frank Meza, the 70-year-old man who was accused of cheating in the Los Angeles Marathon, has died.
At around 9:49 a.m. on Thursday, the Los Angeles Police Department responded to Figueroa Street and Riverside Drive where they located a body in the Los Angeles River, PEOPLE confirms.
The Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Meza’s death is not suspected to be from drowning, according to ABC 7.
Before locating his body, the Los Angeles Fire Department responded to a call about a person allegedly trying to jump into the river, NBC News reported.
Meza was pronounced dead at 10:05 a.m., NBC News reported.
Meza’s wife Faustina Nevarez has since spoken out about her husband’s death telling, NBC News, “I haven’t seen anything else; he’s dead.”
Nevarez has described her husband to the outlet as a man who “has helped numerous people, people who worked with him, people who loved him, people who admired him.”
Meza’s death comes after he was disqualified from the Los Angeles Marathon in March after race officials claim he temporarily left the course during his record-setting run.
According to officials, Meza’s run-time during part of the race was “impossible.”
The record-breaking marathon runner has denied any wrongdoing or cheating in the race, however, video cameras clearly show him stepping off of the course and then rejoining the race again at a location further down the marathon route, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Meza initially clocked in at 2:53:10, which became the fastest marathon run for a person his age, according to the Los Angeles Times.
RELATED: Marathon Runner Gabriele ‘Gabe’ Grunewald Dies at 32 After Decade-Long Battle with Cancer
Conqur Endurance Group, who officiates and organizes the marathon, reviewed store surveillance footage located on the 26.2 mile course from Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica, which showed the retired physician leaving the race and returning — an action that is not permitted per marathon rules.
“After an extensive review of original video evidence from official race cameras and security cameras at retail locations along the race course, Conqur Endurance Group has determined that Dr. Frank Meza violated a number of race rules during the 2019 … Los Angeles Marathon, including re-entering the course from a position other than where he left it,” the marathon officials said in a statement obtained by the website Marathon Investigation.
“The video evidence is confirmed by a credible eyewitness report and our calculation that Dr. Meza’s actual running time for at least one 5K course segment would have had to have been faster than the current 70-74 age group 5K world-record [an impossible feat during a marathon],” the statement read.
Conqur Endurance Group did not return PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Meza’s record-setting result in his bracket of runners from age 70 to 74 has since been removed, putting marathon runner Dan Adams’ 4:10:07 run in first place for his group.
Meza maintained his innocence in light of the accusations.
“All kinds of allegations were being thrown at me,” he told the Times. “It was pretty traumatic.”
However, the retired doctor had been disqualified from marathon races twice before. In 2014 and 2016 Meza ran in the California International Marathon, which takes place in Sacramento, and was disqualified for irregular splits — meaning the interval times recorded at certain points along the race course, according to the Times.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “home” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.