The 70-year-old retired physician disqualified from the 2019 Los Angeles Marathon after allegations of cheating died by suicide, the Los Angeles County coroner's office has determined. Dr. Frank Meza was found dead in the Los Angeles River Thursday, days after he was disqualified from the March race, in which his 2:53:10 finish time would have set a record for his age group—but officials determined the running time for one course segment was actually impossible, and found video of Meza leaving the course and then reappearing at different spots. His cause of death was listed as "blunt force traumatic injuries," CNN reports. NBC 4 reports his body was found near a bridge by police responding to calls about a possible jumper.
Meza and his family had insisted he did not cheat, and last week, Meza's widow said she did not believe he would have taken his own life either. But his family also said the scandal had put him under a lot of stress. "He was targeted, bullied and we tried to defend him the best we could," his daughter said Friday. "He was so devastated that people could actually believe this." The blogger who first called attention to Meza's possible cheating alleged he may have done the same at other marathons, and prior to his death, the Los Angeles Times reported Meza had been twice disqualified, then banned, from the California International Marathon. Meza, who founded the Aztlan Track Club in 1974, had in June stepped down from his position coaching cross-country and track at Loyola (Los Angeles) High School, citing health reasons, USA Today reports. (Read more marathon stories.)