Marathoner Who Took His Own Life After Cheating Allegations Was Cyberbullied, Family Says
Asked whether the allegations against him killed her husband, Frank Meza's wife, Tina Nevarez, replied, "Yes, I do believe that."
Asked whether the allegations against him killed her husband, Meza's wife, Tina Nevarez, replied, "Yes, I do believe that."
"It was embarrassing," Nevarez continued. "It was humiliating. He was distraught."
Meza had been disqualified from the Los Angeles Marathon, which took place in March, on July 1 after appearing to set a world record in his age group with an official time of 2:53:10. But following an investigation, Meza's record was revoked.
He was found dead Thursday. The cause of death was suicide, officials said.
Meza's family said they didn't anticipate he would take his own life.
"I really didn't," said Nevarez. "But I underestimated the stress and hurt."
The family believes cyberbullying led Meza to take his own life.
"People who don't know him ... decided he was not worthy of the running talent he had," said Nevarez. "The attacks that we received on him were excessive, they were targeted only to him and we still don't understand why."
"The comments became mean and distrustful," added Meza's daughter Lorena Meza. "It just kept growing ... and the people responsible for the accusations would not let up. They were relentless."
She continued: "How do you prove you ran 26.2 miles and you did not cheat? ... It was fun for him until people attacked him and they attacked him publicly and they attacked him viciously."
The decision to disqualify Meza from the Los Angeles Marathon came after marathon officials said in a statement that cameras posted along the race captured Meza "re-entering the course from a position other than where he left it."
"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," the statement read, calling that an "impossible feat during a marathon."
Marathon officials said an image shows Meza stepping off a sidewalk and joining the race. Later, he's again spotted coming from a sidewalk and re-entering the race.
Meza, however, had denied the allegations of cheating, saying he merely left the course in search of a bathroom, running on the sidewalk as he did so.
“I didn’t cut the course,” he told the Los Angeles Times before his death.
Now, the memories of Meza's running accomplishments are all that is left for his family to hold on to.
"He's just an excellent runner," said his son Francisco Meza. "... I could never keep up with him because he was just such a dedicated runner."
He added: "This is his life."
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