70-year-old Los Angeles Marathon Runner Who Was Accused of Cheating Found Dead in Dry River Channel

Nik Zecevic

A 70-year-old runner whose record finish in the Los Angeles Marathon was tossed over cheating allegations was found dead in a dry, concrete channel of the Los Angeles River, officials said Friday.

Los Angeles firefighters responded to a call at 9:48 a.m. Thursday of a possible jumper above the dry river channel and made the grim discovery.

Frank Meza, a physician and marathon runner, was found in a part of the channel northwest of downtown and was pronounced dead at 10:05 a.m. Thursday, according to Sarah Ardalani, a spokeswoman for the L.A. County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.

Meza’s wife, Faustina Nevarez, who is also a physician, said she has not learned further details yet.

“I haven’t seen anything else; he’s dead,” she told NBC News on Friday.

Nevarez called her husband a kind and soft-spoken man with many admirers.

“He has helped numerous people, people who worked with him, people who loved him, people who admired him and they’ve been breaking down my door” with condolences and sympathy, Nevarez said, her voice cracking with emotion.

In March, Meza crossed the finish line of the Los Angeles Marathon in 2 hours, 53 minutes and 10 seconds — the fastest ever for a man his age.

But last week, race officials said they erased Meza’s run from their records “after an extensive review of original video evidence from official race cameras and security cameras at retail locations along the race course.”

“Dr. Frank Meza violated a number of race rules … including re-entering the course from a position other than where he left it,” according to race officials. “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].”

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