L.A. Marathon disqualifies 70-year-old, record-breaking runner for allegedly cheating

USATSI

The fastest 70-year-old runner in Los Angeles Marathon history might not be the fastest, after all.

Just over three months after he finished the 2019 marathon in a record 2:53:10, the fastest time ever logged by a man of his age, Frank Meza has been disqualified from the standings after operators for the race used security camera footage to confirm he at one point left the course and then reentered at another location.

As reported by David Wharton of the Los Angeles Times, Meza came under scrutiny almost immediately after his performance, with the long-distance running community spearheading efforts to investigate the 70-year-old. Marathon Investigation even tracked 10 years worth of Meza's times, noting a curious improvement in the senior's finishes over the course of a decade. Conqur Endurance Group, the L.A. Marathon operator, used video from cameras at retail stores along the 26.2-mile course to discover Meza leaving the track and later returning to it.

"The video evidence is confirmed by a credible eyewitness report," Conqur Endurance Group said, per the Times, "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."

Meza, a retired physician, said on Monday he left the course in search of a restroom and used the sidewalk to find one but "didn't cut the course." He is also, however, facing allegations by marathon officials of wearing his numbered bib on his hip instead of pinning it to his shirt, Wharton reported, igniting speculation that Meza may have given his bib to another runner for a segment of the race. The 70-year-old has also confirmed, unlike "many serious runners," that he did not wear a GPS device to confirm his location throughout the marathon.

A former assistant track and cross-country coach at Los Angeles Loyola High School, Meza is no stranger to marathon controversy.

Although it wasn't until age 60 that he started competing, per the Times, he's twice been questioned and disqualified by the California International Marathon for "irregular splits." He has since been banned from that event, despite receiving Runner's World Masters Distance Runner of The Year honors in 2014. The L.A. Marathon also expressed concern over his performances back in 2015, "asking him to run the following year with an official observer," but Meza instead opted to run in a Northern California marathon instead.

Meza does not intend to retire following his latest disqualification, the Times reported. He said he plans to reenter the L.A. Marathon in 2020 to prove he can finish it in less than three hours.

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