LA Marathon disqualifies senior runner for alleged cheating
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Marathon disqualified 70-year-old runner Frank Meza, saying video shows he left the course during his record-setting performance in March and that his time during one stretch was so fast it was “impossible,” according to a report Monday.
Meza has repeatedly denied cheating and did so again on Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“I didn’t cut the course,” he said.
Some in the running community have questioned his finish in 2 hours 53 minutes 10 seconds — the fastest ever for a man his age.
Officials with Conqur Endurance Group, which operates the marathon, began reviewing race video and security footage from the 26.2 miles (42.2 kilometers) from Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica.
It showed Meza, a retired physician, stepped off the course and reentered at another point, officials said.
“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,” they stated, adding that his pace would have been “an impossible feat during a marathon.”
Meza said again Monday that he left the course last spring in search of a restroom and continued along the sidewalk for some distance before finding one.
Officials also cited him for wearing his numbered bib on his hip instead of pinning it to his shirt, which has raised concerns that he passed the bib to another runner for a portion of the marathon.
Meza didn’t enter marathons until age 60 and showed significant progress after several years.
As his results improved, the California International Marathon twice questioned his irregular splits, the times recorded at various points along its Sacramento course.
Officials disqualified him in both instances and ultimately banned him from the event.
The L.A. Marathon initially voiced concerns about Meza in 2015, asking him to run the following year with an official observer. He chose instead to enter a Northern California marathon in 2016.
With this latest disqualification, LA officials have again asked Meza to run with an observer. He said he plans to enter in 2020 to prove he can finish the marathon in less than three hours.
“That’s my only silver lining,” he said.
Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com/