First, I want to preface this post by saying that while this has been an extremely difficult and emotional two weeks for me, I recognize that this is an even more difficult and emotional time for those that knew and loved Frank Meza.
Thank you to all of those that have reached out and offered support over the past two weeks. To those that reached out on a personal level, I cannot begin to convey how much your messages were appreciated and needed.
Thank you to those that took the time to write thoughtful messages, even if they were critical of myself and Marathon Investigation. I’ve always appreciated criticism. I’ve never shut down dissenting opinions.
I knew in the immediate days after this tragedy, that it was best that I not respond. Nothing I said would have seemed appropriate. It wasn’t the time to defend myself or Marathon Investigation.
I’ve read the headlines, the articles, the comments, and all of your emails and messages.
I am working on an article. It has proven difficult to write. The thoughts are constantly swirling through my head about what I want to, and what I need to say. I haven’t been able to get those words out of my head and into my computer. I hope to do so sometime next week. I do have a lot to say and there are issues to address.
I will address the criticisms.
I will address the media coverage.
I will address those that tried to capitalize on this tragedy, and twisted past events and conversations.
I will address the future of Marathon Investigation.
I support your efforts to uphold the integrity of racing, results, and podiums. Longtime fans and followers of your work know that you do so objectively and fairly, you never editorialize about the character of the subjects. Thanks for all you do. I hope you get back to it sooner rather than later.
I agree 100%
I agree completely.
100%. Derek is not responsible if someone cannot handle the consequences of their actions.
Man this is a tough one, and I can imagine it must be tough not to shoulder even a fraction of the possibility that you had something to do with him ending his life. But in looking at the facts, you were just doing your job. You were highlighting someone who was cheating and trying to claim a world record. In the running world, that is very important and shouldn’t be allowed. There should be someone to criticize and question. You gave him the chance to come clean. You never could have known that he had some serious mental issues that would lead to him breaking down. What he did was not your fault at all. And in moving forward, you can’t be expected to know what’s going on in peoples’ minds. Your job is to try and stop cheating in marathons so that the sport can be clean. Your job isn’t to worry about whether or not someone is a personal ticking time bomb. You shouldn’t stop doing what you do because there may be even a hint of a possibility that an unstable person may take his or her life. Good luck Derek. I think that what you do is a good thing.
I disagree mostly. I do not think that Derek had any bad intent, and I do think that cheating should have consequences and that Derek’s investigations help with that.
It should be clear, if we are really honest to ourselves, that MI also has a “wall of shame” function, and part of the fascination of people visiting the site is the sensation, the scandal and the venting in the comment section. Even if this is not the intention of MI it should be obvious that it provides such a platform, and that adds some responsibility.
What should also be considered is the psychological element of cheating at marathons. No, it’s not victimless, but for the most part people cheat themselves. They are mostly amateurs who cheat at things their environment may not even care about, so why are they doing that? Isn’t obvious that you have more unstable persons among the people MI is reporting about (by name)?
I think MI can have a good future, if these two aspects are considered, and measures are taken that things don’t get out of control. Let’s concentrate on the investigation part. and get rid of the shaming part.
Mark, in all cases Derek gives the cheaters a chance to provide proof, answer questions and, if needed, come clean prior to presenting any evidence publicly. The cases that are brought public are from people profiting in some way from their cheating (as social media influencers, as coaches/trainers, as podium winners, Boston qualifiers, etc.). He’s not focusing on the 4-5 hour marathon finisher that skipped the out-and-back part of the race and only ran 18 miles. The people profiled are cheating far more than “themselves” as you state and, if they aren’t brought to light, will continue to do so at other’s expense. Sometimes creating public awareness is the only way to make this happen and if they feel shamed for their continued cheating while showing no remorse or accountability, that’s their choice. It’s not Marathon Investigation’s responsibility to make sure the cheater’s feelings aren’t hurt when they’re given every opportunity to make things right. If you’re proposing that the comment section be removed or only “nice” comments are allowed, I think you’re going down a slippery slope if that’s your expectation for all media and news organizations.
Well, I think the first time I got aware of MI was when some Harvard student cheated at a marathon. She was definitely better than 4-5 hours, and she also got something out of it: if I recall correctly she needed a certain time for being a member some running group? Stupid, not nice, but her name was not only featured in the article, but for what felt like years her name was visible on the MI home page because the article about her was pinned because of it’s popularity. She was stupid, maybe she is even a bad person, but who is to judge. Your name shouldn’t stay on the shame wall forever, because you did wrong.
You don’t have to agree with me, but you are missing my point. This is not about being nice or not being nice. In an ideal case a cheater gets caught (and again Derek’s service helps with that, and that’s a good thing). The action has consequences (disqualification). End of story.
But if you see that your platform attracts attention because of sensationalist aspect rather than the good cause of clean and fair sports (and my point here, that this is definitely the case) then with that comes some responsibility. You shouldn’t just look at what you intended your platform to be, but you should also watch out for whatever your platform is misused to be.
I try to be honest here: Reading MI to me was always like watching train wrecks.
If FM had just admitted it, apologized and moved on after the first article, none of it would have been “sensationalized”. Do we blame the cops when criminals self-harm after being caught? Not ever. Police even post mugshots online with your full name and arrest record.
Cheating in a marathon may not be a legal infraction, but it’s a social crime. FM also tried to steal a world record. Anyone should expect to be scrutinized when going for a World Record. Previously, he rode a bike during a foot race. He created the shame entirely for himself. All MI ever did state his actions publicly and FM couldn’t handle it. Condolences to friends family and loved ones. Outside of this issue, mental health is very important and we need to look after each other during hard times. Love y’all! Don’t cheat.
If MI’s was only about facts and not shaming then why was the story posted “Race Announcer Rudy Novotny Offers $10K to Charity if Bre Tiesi-Manziel Can Run A Six Minute Mile”?
This was purely a story to feed the sensationalism and the shaming; there were no new facts about the race or cheating.
Mark makes a good point.
MI is not responsible.
But we do need to consider how to tone down the sensationalism and avoid stories like the one I listed that are questionable in their quality or purpose.
Here is the thing Mark, he did likely did this many more times over the past 10 years, so there were many more races to be corrected, and many more people who were cheated out of their places. So to correct so much cheating, there would have been many more articles. I would say how much he cheated was sensational, not the website reporting on it. As well as the lengths he went to do it, to cover it up, and to promote himself as a record holder (including on the Kaiser website).
Actually her name was not featured in the initial article. Her name was in a couple screenshots from Instagram, etc. Also she had claimed and taken the 2nd place trophy. After that story went viral, I’ve referenced her by name.
Derek: “After that story went viral, I’ve referenced her by name.”
I’m not quite sure if I understand the thinking behind this. What’s the benefit of adding the name at the point. To gain traffic? You already exposed that person by then.
This is just one example where your “journalistic” choices don’t seem to really match the official purpose of this site “exposing cheaters for the purpose of helping the people who were negatively affected by that cheating”.
I didn’t add the name to the original article. But where she was referenced in follow ups, I did reference her by name. At that point her name was not a secret.
I agree. What FM did is not MI’s, LRC, or our fault. The situation blew up when FM wouldn’t own up to his cheating. If he would have confessed, we wouldn’t be talking about it now
I totally agree!!! <3
Studies have proven that shame – and the threat of shame – is a powerful disincentive to bad behavior. Often times criminals who have been jailed report that it is the threat of further shame that prevents them committing other crimes. I don’t think it’s necessary to pile on – as happens in this internet age with increasing frequency. But it’s important not to discount something which ultimately prevents bad behaviors and prevents bad behaviors from getting worse.
Derek did what this forum was designed to do. Exposed someone cheating himself and others. It’s not a victimless ‘crime.’
I appreciate what Derek does but I have always maintained that, like most reputable news outlets, Derek ought to have some sort of editorial board that can help guide his work. I think he has mostly handled himself appropriately but there is an inherent conflict of interest in doing the kind of work that he does while also standing to profit from it. Somebody in Derek’s position can claim total objectivity but an editorial board would help remove further questions. It may also help to have a diverse set of constituents weighing in to add expertise and insights into the stories Derek uncovers and decides whether to publish / not publish. As I said, in most cases I think this site has handled itself appropriately, but there have been a few instances that left me scratching my head. For instance, with Dr. Meza, I didn’t understand the reason for the unrelenting string of stories. This seemed like a different approach for the website and I can’t help but wonder if a more professional, patient approach could have been taken. Offered as an attempt at constructive feedback….
It is undeniably only human, that you would hold such emotional thoughts, question yourself or feel the need to defend yourself. However, you cannot be held responsible for the actions of another individual in the face of justified accusations. Personally, I find it wholesome that there are people like yourself standing up for the vast majority of good people running these races (on both sides of the DQs). We never know how and when, that we may well be cheated and it may happen years down the line.
I echo the above comment to thank you for everything you do and getting back to such a worthwhile endeavour again.
I admire your thoughtfulness. This is a crap situation all the way around. I believe that it’s important to keep the running community honest, and as someone who has been affected by mental health problems and suicide, you always want to find someone or something to blame. I’ll be honest, I made some comments on here about Dr. Meza, and after the news broke, I went back and took stock of what I said. I still believe that there’s a place for discussion when these issues are exposed, but I hope that we all can sit back and at least think about how what we say may affect the universe. At the same time, a suicide never has one cause, so hopefully anyone who has those ideations will reach out for help.
The only criticism you are going to get is from cheaters. Don’t mind them.
Keep up the good work, Derek. You have shined the light on cheating in races and restored integrity in the sports. Kudos to you!
That’s silly. I critized, but I never cheated
(and that despite getting slower every year, and 2 DNFs in 8 marathons)
(Let’s skip national political figures for a moment, because it’s 2019 and we go online and call everyone we disagree with bad names anyway. )
Suppose a Derek-type person wrote not about a masters runner, but about a mayor or pro athlete – stealing public funds or cheating or whatever. And did it not on a blog, but as part of the investigative journalism team of a local paper or TV station. Maybe not even a crime, just the appearance of impropriety or cheating on their spouse. The same horrible tragedy ensues – is the response to the Derek-type person the same?
In other areas of politics, sports, entertainment, etc., those in the public eye are subject to scrutiny, fair and unfair, true and false. Derek has show that cheating in running is quite real, and he can pretty much find cases at will. Unfortunately then, the sport has to be open to policing and asking tough questions. If not Derek, if not his methods – fine – but who and how?
And even if the cheating is called out by ESPN or the Boston Athletic Association, who controls the online response and at times bullying that’s so prevalent today?
I fully support your efforts. As a person who has finished several marathons and who will never come close to qualifying for Boston or setting a race or world record i can only imagine the effort it takes to achieve such success and i admire those who do. Cheaters too can only imagine the work it takes but they do not respect the athletes who do it.
There is virtue in catching cheaters.
Frank was my neighbor for nearly 30 years. A cloud of grief hangs low over our community. For those of you intent on exposing cheaters, why not go after the race organizations and demand more accountability from them? For those of you filled with self righteousness, why not clean up problems in your town? Get to know real people in a way you never knew Frank. Look them in the eye and see if you can be as hateful to them in person as you are in the anonymous space of the internet.
I, and I’m sure most of the commenters here, are very sorry for the loss you, his family, and the community feel. There are no easy ways for anyone involved to simply take the blame or wash away the pain.
I was a reader and commenter on these threads on both Marathon Investigation and Lets Run. I have no idea what Frank or his family read on these sites, but I’m sure it would have been hurtful overall. To so many of us, it was incredibly obvious that Frank had cheated repeatedly. I don’t understand how his family and friends could have been blind to the facts, but that speaks to his other very positive traits and actions I suppose.
You make a great point about demanding more accountability from race directors and race organizations. In fact, their (perceived) lack of action to disqualify Frank, along with Frank’s continued denials and his supporters attacking the naysayers, is what led to more and more investigations and stories. If the LA Marathon and the Phoenix Sprouts Marathon had better course management or had acted quickly on Derek’s information — or if Frank had just confessed when the investigations started — all of this would have been water under the bridge 2 months ago. Sadly, that s not how it ended.
All the best.
You wondered if Frank’s family and friends saw the posts here and on letsrun. They did. And wasn’t that the goal? To mercilessly shame him? We all worry that his young grandkids may someday stumble on these hateful comments. Why are the stories and comments still up at this site? Wouldn’t decency argue for their removal? It seems the goals of shaming Frank and getting him disqualified have succeeded. He’ll never run again (he’s dead), so won’t be a threat to any future marathoner.
Jean, you and your community are hurt. It does not make sense to point blame in any specific direction. As a supporter of Derek, we all hope you can heal from this situation. That said, history has occurred, and deleting components of it will not erase it.
Presenting objective evidence in the face of repeated denials and lies by Frank isn’t “shaming.”
The goal of these investigations is for me and my future if I run a marathon competitively at age 70, I actually will be running against real records.
Jean, I can imagine that you speak from a place of pain and loss. And even though I’m firmly on Derek’s side in this, it doesn’t mean that I have hateful thoughts about FM or his friends/supporters. And I think most mature people would see that cruel personal attacks are morally out of bounds (but they are statistically an inevitable reality on anonymous forums/sites, and I think most people who participate in such media are aware of it). The reason I’m responding is because I think that cheating/lying is equally morally out of bounds, because I’m not sure why you don’t think that FM’s grandchildren’s would be just as outraged by FM’s cheating/lying as they are by some of the hateful comments. That is a genuine question.
This is just a conjecture, but I think it’s very possible that FM was more bothered by being found out as a cheater/liar than by the hateful online comments–that is, he was more ashamed by/in his conscience of what he had done than he was shamed by anonymous posters.
Not sure, but pretty sure, that the moral high ground doesn’t run through this site. I visited here to conduct my own kind of amateur investigation, to evaluate the methods used to judge and condemn Frank (and me, see esp below). I won’t visit again. I’ll pray that MI and its followers dig a bit deeper into the well of kindness and find there a more human, more respectful response to the imperfections that drag on all of us.
(responding to Jean’s message of 7/21, 2:40pm)
Jean, you might not read this, but….Stating facts and showing pictures of someone cheating are not the same as judging and condemning. Calling a proven cheater a cheater is not judging and condemning. And I don’t see anything on this particular thread where anyone is attacking/judging/condemning Frank or you. In fact, the closest anyone comes to such rhetoric is you when you say that people are “filled with self-righteousness.”
“We all worry that his young grandkids may someday stumble on these hateful comments.”
I cannot sympathize at all. You seem more worried about the grandkids reading hateful comments than the cheating FM is undoubtedly guilty of. I read an article after FM’s suicide in which family members were interviewed and took a strong line in support of FM’s truthfulness. They are creating the unrealistic expectations that will undoubtedly be shattered. In this way they – and you – are contributing to the problem.
I would bet quite a few of us have people in our family trees who we are not proud of. I know there was a sheep thief somewhere in mine. I have a brother who is currently in prison. I would not deny or defend his crimes. I don’t believe the best option is to hide and deny things. I do not belief that loyalty is paramount above all other values, like truth and decency. I think that only makes the problems worse.
Removing the comments would be censorship. Any halfway decent journalist would be against any censorship.
“For those of you filled with self righteousness, why not clean up problems in your town? ”
In which the writer demands that other people do the thing that she herself will not do. Frank Meza was a persistent cheater. You will not own up to that, let alone do anything about it.
Jean, The investigations and resulting articles on MI continued because Frank was unable to take responsibility for his actions. Rather than come clean, he accused MI of lying about him. That is why Derek responded with more investigating and articles – to defend his integrity. I am sure that Frank felt a terrible pressure from knowing he had deceived his family, friends, colleagues, and fellow runners, and he clearly could not face the shame of that. The way he handled it is awful and tragic. Obviously we can’t know his final thoughts, but if I had to guess, I’d say that the opinions of the people he loved were more of a burden to him than strangers’ comments on the internet. I am very sorry for your loss, and hope your community can heal.
I believe you had no ill intent with your investigation. If people find MI a wall of shame, then the alternative is not to follow MI. When confronted with the truth of a given situation, everyone reacts differently yet I believe there were underlying, unknown issues that caused this Dr to take his own life. This is not the fault of MI. MI presented the facts with evidentiary photos to present a clear cut case of cheating….unfortunately the accused chose to take his own life vice admitting guilt.
You are a great journalist. Keep up the good work.
I wanted to reach out and reiterate that NONE of this was in any way your fault. You were informed about a cheating incident, you gave said runner the platform to come clean, and you provided multiple supporting documentations re several incidents by the same person.
YOU are NOT responsible for someone else’s actions. Not their cheating, not the subsequent behavior or continuous cheating if that be the case. You are a journalist. It’s very rarely pretty exposing truths that are able to put others in a bad light or place. But again, YOU did not choose THEIR actions. They did. It is tragic that this time there was a death, but not sounding heartless-again..not YOUR choice. Hold up your head proudly and thank you for calling out cheaters to help our chosen sport stay as honest as we are able to make it.
The alternative to not shedding light on cheating is to tacitly permit it, or cross our fingers and hope that races analyze questionable results. LA initially ignored the issue, but public pressure led them to reconsider.
You can’t be held in any way responsible for the malfeasance of others.
Consider the analogous issue in law enforcement. You catch someone doing something bad, and they are forced to face their own wrongdoing. With the mirror staring them in the face, they may chose to harm themselves. In response, do we layoff the police force?
I think ultimately the consequences surprised everyone, no one was expecting this. Hindsight is a powerful thing, it’s easy to say now that Derek should have seen it coming but he didn’t, I didn’t, most didn’t – a number of people suggested that perhaps Derek is going a bit far but that number was vanishingly small.
Derek, I know you’re suggesting that your feelings are far less important than those of the family but that doesn’t mean they’re irrelevant. I have huge sympathy for you, I really do, it’s a horrible, shocking thing that has happened and I think discussions about whose fault it is, whether he brought it upon himself, even whether he was a hero or a villain are just background noise compared to the gravity of what has happened. I know comforting words are pointless so I won’t even try, I just hope you’re ok.
Derek, I agree with everyone above commenting that you had no ill intent. I equally feel as a reader terrible that Frank must have been in such a state to which it was better to not be around anymore. Maybe instead of making Frank’s death meaningless you could use it to change for the better. MI points out cheaters, exposes them and basically wants them to admit cheating then lose their medals and get banned from a ton of races. Pretty dark hole. Maybe that can be changed. Why not look at partnerships with local running coaches, clubs, the race officials, Garmin, nike ect and if a cheater owns their actions they get a do over extraordinaire (in a positive way with a ton of support) rather than a banishment . They can choose whether they want a million eyeballs on them or not, they get a running coach and entry fee, maybe a “Do Over’ shirt. An opportunity to know they made some major mistakes but can become a hero of their redemption story….all through MI.
Mary-Anne – I really like the idea of a positive outcome to a negative issue. Kind of like the police officer who is called to arrest a shoplifter and ends up buying them the food they so desperately need. Well done.
I personally think that this site provides a valuable service, and Derek makes great efforts to be equinanimous. Simply publishing here, even with name, doesn’t seem to rise to the level of cyber-bullying. The evidence that Mr. Meza cheated repeatedly is overwhelming, and his behavior so egregious, that calling it out seems totally appropriate. But the response of individuals to that expose–and I can think of more instances of this on the Let’s Run threads than here–is the “he cheated at marathons, he must be a cheater in all aspects of life, so he should be banned from his medical profession, removed as cross-country coach”, etc., seems to me to be clearly over the top. For one thing, the notion that someone who cheats in one aspect of life does so in all aspects is not obviously true. And in any case, even if it were true, those who join the internet mob–sending harassing messages, contacting his place of employment, etc., would seem to be the far greater problem. Now, would those people have done this without the exposes here and at Let’s Run? Certainly not, as no one would have been the wiser. But the point of this site is to direct the opprobrium of the running community upon those who are cheating for gain, and that seems entirely appropriate and proportionate the the infraction. For those who gain that information to then use that to go a step (or many steps) further is where the problem most chiefly lies in my opinion. The only remedy that I could suggest on Derek’s end would be to delete any comments that advocate for actions that directly target the exposed individual. And even then, I’m just not certain I’ve seen so much of that here (as opposed to at LR).
Derek- I think you are handling an extremely difficult situation in the most respectful and professional way you possibly could. You have always been about the DATA, and continue to shine a light on dishonesty that impacts other athletes of all capacities who are denied opportunities when individuals choose to intentionally cheat. You have consistently made a point of contacting implicated individuals and giving them an opportunity to respond. While the events that unfolded regarding Frank Meza were truly tragic, and his family was obviously and understandably very affected, in the end you simply aren’t responsible for his poor decision making, nor his inability to handle the fact that he had been caught in his deception. You did not create the photographic and gps evidence that was available in the public domain – you simply brought it to light. Thank you for doing what you do – it is extremely hard at times, as evident by recent events, but you speak for the many voiceless athletes out there who have been denied the opportunity to celebrate their honest efforts legitimately.
Tough times for you, I’m sure. For what it is worth, I still support your efforts because of your methods. You do solid research, attempt to state facts as best as you can, always give the subject a chance to respond, and you keep the comments well-moderated. (That last point especially is where I think LRC needs to do some more soul searching, though I will stop just short of blaming them.) You have also proven willing on multiple occasions to highlight those who have come clean and apologized; we are not perfect, but most of the running community seems to welcome back those who ask for forgiveness.
As I’ve alluded to elsewhere, I think the most important change needs to come from the race directors. They can clearly influence the integrity of their race results through course design, more timing mats, and rudimentary checks of the timing data. In a perfect world, the MI website never exists. Until then, I thank you for your efforts.
Some say that Frank cheated, and others say he was cyber-bullied. I conclude that both are true. I’ve very carefully viewed the Phoenix Marathon video from mile 22. I don’t see how it is possible that Frank would have been missed by continuous high-resolution video with a good view of the whole street, including sidewalk, unless he cut the course. How many of the other good and great performances were faked is open to question.
Reporting on your findings is good, as long as you are careful and avoid character assassination. You have been careful in your investigations, and accused with good evidence. Many commenters, including several on the LetsRun board, have made sweeping accusations and untrue statements about Frank without doing any of their own homework.
The saddest thing is what has happened to Frank, his family, and his friends. The second saddest is rampant cheating. Some are good runners, like Frank, who don’t seem to have any good reason to cheat, but apparently feel some need to embellish the record. Continue your investigations and data gathering, being sensitive to the human side.
“as long as you are careful and avoid character assassination….”
Let me help you. That’s never happened.
People taking about you on a message board isn’t bullying. You don’t have to visit it. These people didn’t show up at his home, message him on social media, or email his bosses. He was only contacted by the legitimate investigators, race officials, and the media, none of which is bullying.
I agree with this and all your other comments and I appreciate your clarification on what actual bullying is. Like you, in the case of FM, I don’t think cyber-bullying occurred. For me, calling a third-party nasty names on a forum is not cyber-bullying when it’s done within the confines of the forum. Yes, it’s immature and unnecessary and weakens public discourse, but it’s not cyber-bullying.
Just wanted to add my words of support for what you do and how you do it. In addition to helping to uphold the integrity of racing and race results, I appreciate the mere existence of a site like MI to counteract the “Look at me, Celebrate me” tendency of today’s social media culture which I think fuels some of the cheating. You probably don’t run MI it for that reason and you alone can’t fight the trend, but I wanted to say that I appreciate it. I believe firmly that your goal is not to shame the cheaters; that is why you reach out to them personally first. But in a culture that is increasingly losing any sense of shame–and assuming that we as a society still agree that cheating/lying is a shameful act–I don’t think it’s all bad if people discover that it is shameful to be recognized as a cheater/liar. At the same time, I don’t think people should be nasty in attacking people, even cheaters; being cruel is also shameful behavior. But as most have said, presenting evidence of cheating about people who continue to lie about it is not attacking them or shaming them, so you should feel no guilt/responsibility about FM’s tragic decision.
You did nothing wrong Derek, and you should continue your valuable work. Hopefully this tragedy will not see cheaters given carte blanche but will instead encourage race organisers to be more diligent in checking results to ensure that cheaters are caught early and don’t go on to dig themselves into holes they can see no escape from.
I would like to know if Phoenix has disqualified him? How about SF marathon 2014? Have they disqualified him too? I can’t believe someone who claims to be a marathon runner to use a bike during a marathon!
I think, given the grievous circumstances, you’ll be hard-pressed to see one of those races DQ him now. While it might strictly be considered the ‘right thing’ to do – and may even award someone a podium they deserved but didn’t get – it’s a huge hurdle to jump when the person is no longer around to defend themselves. And it will be certainly viewed as harmful to the family, which deserves to be left alone.
if it happens at all, I’m sure the race directors/organizers will do so quietly, just removing his results from their website without making any announcement or press release.
Many lessons to learn here. #1 Don’t cheat. Don’t cheat on your taxes, don’t cheat on your wife, don’t cheat your boss, don’t cheat your employees, Don’t cheat the stranger you meet, don’t cheat on a short race, or a long race, but if you do, confess, as soon as you come to your senses and make it right as soon as you can. If some one fingers you, thank them, and confess and stop. Then get back on the strait and narrow. Even if you manage to fool everyone, you won’t fool God and you may not be able to live with yourself. Reconciliation is a great word.
Agree 100%. In my opinion, this is the kind of behavior that will actually lead to a better society, and it’s far more effective and real (and unsurprisingly, much more difficult) than the public virtue-signalling name-calling that passes as “being a good person” these days.
I’ve given this issue great consideration over the past week. Derek, I’ve said this many times but I’ll reiterate that what you do is important. Since launching this website, many cheaters now think twice before cutting a course or using bib forgeries. As a veteran marathon runner, I appreciate that runners on the course with me at Boston or NYC entered the race legally (hopefully). That said, and I cannot emphasize this enough, there has to be a difference between reporting the facts, and simply roasting people suspected of cheating. Armchair critics who sit anonymously behind a keyboard can be vicious and brutally cruel toward complete strangers. The comments I read on Dr Meza’s articles were shocking and unnecessary.
No one knows what’s in someone’s heart and mind. Cruel commentary to someone suffering from depression or anxiety may be very traumatic. Imagine seeing your name online every day and your character ripped apart for all the world to see: friends, family, people in your professional community. The life you built shattered; reputation annihilated. This can be very traumatic. We MUST ensure, should this website continue, that the facts are simply reported once. Maybe an update a week or later and leave it there for people to consider. Turn off the comments. They are mean, uninformed (usually), and damaging to the vulnerable. Report the cheaters to the race officials, report the news, and move on to the next story. Period.
May God bless Dr Meza and his family. My heart aches when I consider the anguish he likely felt in his final moments. Unnecessarily. Did he cheat? Yes, very likely. Did he deserve the vitriol that resulted? In my opinion he did not. Get the facts. Report to the race directors. Report findings. Done. Thank you for your openness to criticism and suggestions. We are all human; fallible; and deserving of mutual respect.
Was Derek creating any of the vitriol? I think many people are shooting the messenger.
The concern is that, intentionally or not, he helped fan the flames, even after Frank was disqualified. He can’t be 100% responsible for the actions of his fanbase, but when they’re getting out of hand, it’s necessary to pause and ask what further good is actually being served by more articles. Otherwise you risk producing a tabloid-like atmosphere and I doubt that’s what Derek wants.
Hindsight is 20/20 obviously, but too many fans were extrapolating from this one aspect of Frank’s life all sorts of negative things about him that were unknowable. I’ll take the overall judgment of the people who’ve donated almost $15k in his memory over that of a bunch of anonymous haters online who only saw a narrow sliver of his life.
I feel that the reaction of ‘The Marathon Investigation Community’ is being overstated. There were many more articles written by other outlets after his disqualification. The reaction on those pages, in many cases was much worse – and had a far greater reach. That said, I recognize that things can be done better.
The LA Times would have written about this whether I had written two or twenty articles. That article led to dozens of others. THis was neither the fault of The LA Times or the other outlets. This is a very tragic situation, and one I’ve replayed a hundred times. But I believe that most reports, and the headlines greatly oversimplified the story by implying a simple cause and effect.
I agree with the general sentiment of many here that the pursuit of truth can’t be abandoned just because somebody might be made to feel bad. It’s entirely plausible that with even one article posted here, Frank kills himself. Still a tragedy, but appearances do matter, and I think a lot of people would be less bothered in that case by the role (however diluted it actually is) of your site in the outcome. The fact that other sites are behaving badly has rather little to do with how things should be done here. In fact, it could arguably be an indication that it’s time to back off, especially once the disqualification happened. Yes, Frank became particularly newsorthy in the eyes of the mainstream media once the DQ happened and there’s nothing that could be done. Regardless, once the DQ happened, and the mainstream media had taken off and run with it, it’s a fair question of whose needs were served by posts that basically amount to “look at this guy, I can’t believe he still won’t admit.” I am sure it’s frustrating to have worked so hard amassing a mountain of virtually bulletproof evidence and maybe feel like Frank was thumbing his nose at you, but sometimes that happens. People gave up worrying about Rosie Ruiz a long time ago, after all.
I don’t envy the position you’re in at all and think you’ve been very open to people who offer up dissenting positions. I’m sure you’ve gotten some pretty awful hate mail from faceless people who are just as wrong in their assessment of your character as the people who argued that Frank must’ve been an incompetent doctor, cheated to get into medical school, etc. I’m sure you’ve replayed every decision made during your Frank investigation over and over, wondering if it would have made a difference. I say these last few things because I think too often on the Internet we take disagreements as a sign of The Other Guy’s poor character traits. That’s clearly a bogus viewpoint. If we’d give each a little more benefit of the doubt, the world would be a better place.
His own actions besmirched his reputation. Nothing more. I think you’re confused as to what cyber bullying is. No one was sending him harassing messages though social media or contacting all of his friends and associates. No one was calling his boss.
He was contacted by legitimate investigators, race director, and journalists. Nothing more. The only source of shame were his own actions.
“The only source of shame were his own actions.” This cannot be said enough. At the end of the day, if Frank had not actually done the things he was accused of, he would not have had any reason to feel shame. Perpetuating the idea that bringing the cheating into light is somehow wrong and is even bullying is a knee jerk reaction to an awful situation.
The focus belongs on Frank Meza. The public reaction that occurred was very predictable. Some of it was immature and unnecessary. But it was no more so – far less, IMO – than his actions that precipitated the entire scenario to begin with. Actions have reactions. Frank was a doctor who made it to 70yo and about whom his family, friends and community all seem to say he was a good person and a productive, well-adjusted member of society. He was, by all accounts, sane and lucid and would have known that what he was doing was wrong.
I have no doubt that Frank suffered some emotional harm. So did many who he intentionally cheated. What if he would have barely missed the cut at med school or lost advancement or recognition in his profession because someone deliberately cheated to displace him? In effect, that’s what he did to many other people, time and again – with meticulous premeditation.
“Running races are just trivial events though, right? What real harm was there?” Tell that to the thousands out there whose dreams are to win races or just place in their divisions. Trivialize that to someone who works 50hrs a week and has young children but still runs every morning at 5am in the dark cold winter to earn a podium spot or set a national or world record. Marginalize that to someone who runs competitively now after surviving cancer and being given a second lease on life. For some, running and competing are life-blood activities they hold sacred. The very notion of fair competition is a pure social ethic. Frank mocked all of that to feed his ego. In doing so, he also tarnished the legacies of honorable men like Ed Whitlock.
People are facing prison terms for cheating to get their kids into college, and I see no outcry that reporting those offenses is tasteless or constitutes a mob mentality. It’s exposing deceit that has a broader impact on mainstream society. Frank purposefully cheated and lied over a long period, in a public endeavor, while accepting public accolades and publicly self-promoting his false accomplishments. It was fair to have public commentary in reaction to this, some which predictably could be inflammatory toward Frank. I think it’s impossible that he didn’t know this could happen.
Perhaps Frank had a mental disorder that didn’t allow him to help himself. If so, that is tragic, and I empathize with him and his family who will carry this pain for a long time to come. I’m very sorry he chose to end his life. But to point a finger at Derek or others apart from Frank is misguided and dangerous to the fabric of a society where people must be responsible for their decisions and actions, as difficult and potentially shameful as it might be at times.
Derek reported the facts in a fair way. He gave Frank and the race directors every reasonable opportunity to handle things correctly and mostly privately. Derek never made threats, unlike some in Frank’s camp who reportedly did. The reporting at MI was objective and journalistic and not sensationalistic. No blame or responsibility lies with Derek. We can conjure up mosaic theories all day long about how MI is a gear in a larger cyber-bullying machine. That is a big stretch, and I think it’s unfair to the professional way Derek has handled himself and this site.
If people don’t want to be publicly identified as having cheated, then don’t cheat at public activities and claim the public rewards from them. It’s that simple.
This is very well said.
We need to stop pretending that suicides are victims and not perpetrators—especially when they’re trying to dodge the consequences of their actions. Meza didn’t care that he was hurting his family. He was using them as tools to try to vindicate himself the only way he might possibly be able to. I suppose we shouldn’t have arrested Epstein for assaulting teenage girls because he tried to kill himself too.
Derek, I sincerely hope you carry on your excellent work here, you cannot be held responsible for what people exposed as cheats choose to do, the logical conclusion of what some people claim is that cheats, liars and criminals must never be exposed and held accountable unless they take their own life. I suspect that if this happened then there would be no deterrence at all to those who do not think they should obey the rules and laws of civilised society
Frank was disqualified from the LA Marathon on July 1st – by the only people who actually have responsibility for maintaining the fairness of the run. And then two more posts about him afterward? At some point you’ve gotta ask if the focus is on keeping the wrong guy off the podium or if it’s on demonstrating the ability to force a submission on your terms. Once the rest of the world is convinced that you’re right and the other guy is wrong, does it really matter anymore?
Some people, when called out about doing wrong will immediately come clean. Others will take varying amounts of time, perhaps after initial denials. Some will never admit it. A small number will see suicide as a way to atone. Regardless, in order to admit wrong, you have to be alive. It accomplishes nothing when people post vicious things about another person who they’ve never met based on a single facet of his life. Going from a rather anonymous private individual to a minor celebrity who everybody seems to hate sounds like something that would tax the emotional stamina of almost anybody. Maybe Frank would still be alive without all the anonymous haters. Maybe he planned to admit on July 5th what he’d done. We’ll never know.
I can hear it now – “right, so he’d be alive if he’d just admitted immediately.” To that I say (1) maturity requires you to understand that other people don’t always act the way you’d prefer and (2) if the most bothersome thing in your life is that a guy already disqualified by the LA Marathon hasn’t yet admitted to cheating, you have a pretty charmed life and may have a bigger ego problem than the cheater himself.
Lest I sound too one-sided in what I said above, it goes without saying of course that Derek couldn’t have foreseen, desired, or intended the sad outcome here. But now that it’s happened, there’s got to be a way to take lessons from it and put them to good use. I’ve always been impressed by the investigative work that goes into all this (apparently in Derek’s spare time, to boot). Hopefully it can be done in a way that satisfies needs for fairness without just feeding the sharks looking for somebody to hate.
Again, the “vicious” remarks are nothing to do with Derek, is your solution that we never expose cheating? As is often observed, it is seldom the crime that infuriates people as much as the denials and cover-ups – supporters of Frank threatening people was only ever going to end one way.
I’m not sure where my post suggested that we should never expose cheating. Most comments about Frank, at least here, were relatively civil. Some online commentators went way overboard, imputing character flaws to him for which there was no evidence.
Any time cheating is reported, the trolls will are going to see it as fodder and a license to rip into all aspects of a person – there’s no escaping that truth of the Internet. So it means that if you’re going to report cheating, do it in a way that minimizes the fodder. One way to start is to make your bulletproof case, let the race directors do their thing, and move on. And if a DQ is successfully obtained, definitely move on – mission accomplished. For anybody infuriated by continued denials, I’d direct them back to what I wrote above: (1) maturity requires you to understand that other people don’t always act the way you’d prefer and (2) if the most bothersome thing in your life is that a guy already disqualified by the LA Marathon hasn’t yet admitted to cheating, you have a pretty charmed life and may have a bigger ego problem than the cheater himself.
I think the reason Derek persisted in his investigations, after the LA DQ, is that Frank and his camp were denying wrongdoing and suggesting legal action would follow. It was natural that a) others were going to supply Derek with more evidence (which happened) b) Derek would also supply the same, if only to protect himself.
I agree there’s a lot of logic to why Derek would persist. A lot of people probably would. But my point is that once the DQ happens, nothing else really matters. The legal system does this all the time when somebody is found guilty and just won’t admit – we say “well, that’s nice. Deny it all you want, we’re done here, enjoy prison.” It’s also worth remembering that criminal defendants are granted the absolute right to avoid self-incriminating statements. The Internet isn’t a courtroom obviously, but we might ask ourselves whether we truly have the right to tell another person “confess or we’ll never give up chasing you,” especially after official action has been taken.
“Frank was disqualified from the LA Marathon on July 1st – by the only people who actually have responsibility for maintaining the fairness of the run. And then two more posts about him afterward?”
The evidence is very strong that the LAM was not an isolated incident and that FM had a long history of cheating.
This is true. But those were initially not the focus of the investigation nor were they record-setting runs. So what was the real purpose? Titles and subtitles can tell you a lot.
“Frank still has his defenders” says one subtitle. “Frank Meza is Defiant as Even More Cheating Evidence Surfaces” goes the other article title. I fear that this had become about applying whatever pressure was needed to force behavioral conformance. Annoying as it is to be clearly correct while other people are clearly lying (or believing a liar) there are limits to what is appropriate when one private citizen interacts with another. It’s easy to say that something crossed a threshold from hindsight of course. Furthermore, a lot of people perhaps could’ve made the same mistake if they were in Derek’s shoes trying to fight for truth and lost sight of the bigger picture in the process. But neither of those points mean that an important line wasn’t crossed, even if accidentally.
Don’t lose sight of the many lines FM crossed as he was jumping on and off courses.
Of course, he cheated. I haven’t lost sight of that. But the rage machine (very much beyond Derek’s ability to control once the cat was out of the bag, but feasting on every scrap of data he posted nonetheless) had its way with him and now the man is dead. I have a hard time believing that qualifies as justice in the world. Do you disagree that the outcome does not seem equitable?
I don’t want to ignore cheating and I’d love for Derek to keep doing his work to keep the sport honest. But I don’t want to see another person die if there’s anything that can be done differently. There’s always risk when you out somebody who’s done something wrong, especially online, given the way the Internet mob works. Nobody can control what other people do with information, but we can control what fuel we ourselves throw into the fire. From the sound of things, Derek has been wracking his brain to figure this all out. I wish him the best of luck in working it all out while also blotting out the people who wrongly think he’s a terrible person.
Slowpoke, (I want to respond to your post to me above but for some reason that’s not an option). I think you have some very good, nuanced points.
But your crime analogy doesn’t hold up. You said: “The legal system does this all the time when somebody is found guilty and just won’t admit – we say “well, that’s nice. Deny it all you want, we’re done here, enjoy prison.”
This is true, but if during the discovery of one crime others are also turned up they won’t hesitate to pile on the charges. Or throw someone in jail for one offense and continue to pursue others.
I think the big issue here that you present is how to control the big internet rage machine. Let’s face it, MI is a small website in the corner of the web with a relative handful of regular readers. I suspect other than the conversations from Derek to Mr. Meza himself Meza would have been unaware of MI. In all likelihood, neither the attention – and commentary – at MI or Let’s Run was what drove this terrible conclusion.
But I knew when I stumbled onto the UKs Daily Mail site with the same story that things had gone global and were likely to grow more vicious. Is that the fault of MI for the initial exposure? or the mainstream media outlets for taking things nationally, then globally?
I don’t know the answer. I suspect there’s no middle ground these days. That’s a bad thing. But how to fix it?
SlowPoke: “… and now the man is dead. I have a hard time believing that qualifies as justice in the world. Do you disagree that the outcome does not seem equitable?”
That was no one’s decision but Frank Meza. I cannot recall a single commenter at MI or LetsRun suggesting that Frank Meza should be put to death for his cheating.
Apparently you are advocating for a world where anyone can escape punishment for any wrongdoing by threatening self-harm to an extent that exceeds the legal penalty.
CCB: Yeah, the blog software I guess doesn’t let comments get nested more than 3 or 4 deep. Probably gets impossible to read.
For the crime analogy – you’re right, once somebody’s in jail, you can (and often should) keep looking at other crimes since where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. But, there should be some consideration as to whether it’s worth the time because at some point it starts to look like piling on. Now, I’ll concede that it looks like Frank had falsely taken age group 1st places in prior races, so you can make a case that those were worth a look. But I’m still left with the sense that the sudden interest (by MANY people) in those races wasn’t driven by primarily by a desire to make sure the results were correct, but rather a desire to force Frank to act a particular way. Maybe I’m splitting hairs (I probably am), but I think it’s important when interacting with other people to figure out what’s motivating us (and I don’t intend to say by any stretch of the imagination that I’m perfect in this regard).
I wish I knew a fool-proof way to prevent a mess like this. Personally, I see plenty of things on the news that make me quite mad but I almost never post anything anywhere because I figure there are enough people out there already ranting. And if I do post, I try to be calm and reasoned which often requires me to stop, breathe, and rewrite things multiple times. (The time required to do this is another thing that keeps me from commenting much…) If we all did that, things might be better online, I dunno. There’s obviously a role in the world for justified anger, including at people who cheat at marathons, but at some point simply adding to the volume of noise doesn’t help.
As Derek has pointed out, whether he did one post or fifty, the mainstream media got interested and ran with the story. And each of those sites probably had their own comment sections with haters and there’s a good chance Frank saw them. With so much attention, you could easily argue that one post vs fifty here makes no difference and the outcome was going to be the same. It’s certainly even more difficult for Derek (or anybody who does investigative journalism-type work) given that he’s got no way of knowing the emotional makeup of every person he investigates.
I think my views have finally coalesced here around these ideas: with so many actors, we basically end up with a scenario where many people could’ve done things differently but yet each individual’s contribution comes out to be tiny. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t examine what it is we are contributing to the Internet whether we’re a content producer or just a commenter – are we helping in an important way or are we piling on because it’s become personal? Unfortunately, we’re human – it’s very easy for things to become personal.
Random BS comment: this whole episode has gotten me thinking about schadenfreude. It’s natural for us to enjoy that feeling to some degree. But, I wonder if our culture (especially with the Internet where things happening on the next continent over are for some reason relevant to the local tabloid) has enabled us to indulge in it a bit too much.
Bayesian Bouffant, FCD: “I cannot recall a single commenter at MI or LetsRun suggesting that Frank Meza should be put to death for his cheating.”
Just to set this aside before responding to the rest – correct, I didn’t see anybody suggesting death as the right outcome. So you agree that the final outcome wasn’t proportional to the original crime?
“That was no one’s decision but Frank Meza. […] Apparently you are advocating for a world where anyone can escape punishment for any wrongdoing by threatening self-harm to an extent that exceeds the legal penalty.”
I don’t know why you’re saying I want a world where people can just threaten self harm to avoid being held responsible for their actions. I’ve said above that I don’t want to ignore cheating (or criminal activity) and that there’s always risk when you call someone out.
Anyway, the legitimately suicidal don’t typically use it as a bargaining chip. I certainly didn’t see Frank give anybody an ultimatum of “please stop doing this or I’ll kill myself.” Is your understanding of suicide that it is a rational choice made by a clear-thinking individual who has weighed the pros and cons of living vs. dying? Incidentally, he committed suicide after the DQ. What punishment was he escaping?
Let’s imagine two hypothetical announcements from a marathon. Which do you prefer?
(1) “The race organizers have completed an investigation and found clear evidence of cheating. This competitor has registered their disagreement but we believe the evidence compelling enough to merit disqualification. The final standings have been adjusted accordingly.”
(2) “The race organizers have completed an investigation and found clear evidence of cheating by So-And-So Doe. Mr Doe has registered his disagreement but we believe the evidence compelling enough to merit disqualification. The final standings have been adjusted accordingly.”
Slowpoke, you’ve made a lot of good observations in this thread. I’ll only add a couple of thoughts:
1) the feeding frenzy at letsrun was a bit much. Literally thousands of posts, many of which suggested that because Meza cut courses, he was unethical in other aspects of his life. People were advocating raising concerns with medical regulators and others in his life.
2) the self-righteousness with which people followed this was the worst, although not surprising. Yeah, the guy cheated. It’s not a good thing, but it’s hardly the worst thing ever. Moreover, people cheat. How many people here roll through stop signs or fudge numbers on their tax forms or pay cash to avoid paying taxes? Most people break rules because they think there is no harm to breaking them (and in most instances, the harm is either small or not apparent.)
Sociologically, the phenomenon boils down to people believing there are good people and bad people. We – the collective we – decided that Frank Meza was a cheat and is therefore a bad people. I am a good people – my wife tells me every other day. I can’t be a bad people so I must be better than Frank.
Truth is, Frank did a thing – many times, as it turned out – for which he was ultimately embarrassed. Most people do things that would embarrass us if someone shone a light on them. It’s hard to fault Derek for shining that light, because ultimately integrity matters. But let’s acknowledge that we’re all humans who make mistakes, and those mistakes don’t make us bad people.
Imagine this article in your newsfeed:
“Our journalists have determined that something happened this morning, somewhere, but we can’t tell you anything about it. Have a good day.”
SlowPoke: “So you agree that the final outcome wasn’t proportional to the original crime?”
The actions taken by race organizers – a single DQ – and by Derek – several articles – were indeed not proportional to the crime. FM should have been DQed from multiple events, and should have received some lifetime bans.
As for FM being dead – once again, that was an action taken by FM. I did not suggest it as a punishment for his misdeeds. Neither did the race organizers. Neither did Derek. Apparently you want to hang this around someone’s neck other than FM’s, but you are not succeeding in making a case for it. Suggest you drop this line.
Good Bad Apple: Agreed, LetsRun got pretty wacky. Also, I think the idea you’re getting at is basically a restatement of the fundamental attribution error. The fundamental attribution error seems to be particularly popular in website comment sections and forums.
Bayesian Bouffant, FCD: A couple lifetime bans sounds quite appropriate. One race did that, very reasonably.
Obviously at the very end, nobody else physically pushed Frank off the bridge. I’ll ask again – do you believe that suicide is an action taken by a rational, clear-thinking mind that has weighed all the pros and cons of the decision?
SlowPoke: “I’ll ask again – do you believe that suicide is an action taken by a rational, clear-thinking mind that has weighed all the pros and cons of the decision?”
You appear to have finally given up your conceit that FM’s death was part of the punishment meted out by other parties.
As to this particular question, I don’t want to generalize, there may situations in which suicide is indeed the rational course of action. But no, I don’t believe so in this case. It appears FM made one more bad decision.
Bayesian Bouffant, FCD: I don’t think I’ve directly accused anyone of actively *wanting* Frank Meza dead although I bet in the course of writing so much I could’ve sounded like it. In any case, I wrote this waaaay up above, probably before you started replying to me: “it goes without saying of course that Derek couldn’t have foreseen, desired, or intended the sad outcome here.”
There’s a difference between intending an outcome and being partly contributory (I’m specifically avoiding the use of “responsible” or “causal” here, even when the qualifier of “partly” because those are very loaded terms) to an outcome. If somebody fully willingly jumps off a bridge, they are pretty much the only actor contributory to the outcome. But if, as you say in Frank’s case, they were not fully rational at that time, then we have to dig deeper. If the individual’s thought process was heavily constrained by external factors, then those external factors becoming contributory to the decision to jump. This is true *even though the jumper himself remains highly contributory to the outcome and even if the external factors in question were produced in response to the jumper’s own prior actions.*
This is why I worry about the extent and nature of attention (not just here) paid to a Random Joe. Suppose you see a guy cut a course during a race. Immediately afterward you walk up to him and say “hey dude, what the hell, I saw you cut the course!” and then he darts off and hurls himself in front of a bus. There’s no way you could’ve seen that one coming – you just wanted to keep the run honest – and relatively few people are going to have a beef with you even though you did contribute to his decision to commit suicide by bus. On the other hand, if a big online mob forms and decides to keep hounding him for weeks because he won’t give in, the hounding continues after official action (DQ) is taken, and then he finally jumps in front of a bus, the mob’s contribution seems like it should be judged in a different light, especially given that the effect of Internet shaming (I’m not using this exclusively in the pejorative sense) on suicide is well recognized. This is true even if nobody intended for suicide to happen. And when the Internet mob contributes to (again, avoiding “responsible for” or “causes”) a death, surely it’s appropriate for individual members to ask “Shit. I wonder how much of my voice was actually needed here. I can’t control what other people do, but maybe I can act differently faced with a similar situation in the future.”
Mostly irrelevant sidebar: In many ways, the people who cheated in the era of print media were lucky. Sure, there’d be outcry, but probably nothing like what we’re able to muster today.
SlowPoke reminds me of Giorgio Tsoukalos: “I’m not saying it’s aliens… but it’s aliens.”
Or in the case of SlowPoke: “I’m not saying you caused Frank Meza’s death… but you caused Frank Meza’s death.”
Once everyone – including yourself – has rejected every single one of your supporting arguments, perhaps you should consider changing your conclusion.
Bayesian Bouffant, FCD: Or in the case of SlowPoke: “I’m not saying you caused Frank Meza’s death… but you caused Frank Meza’s death.”
I just went up and did a search for the word “cause” in this thread. The closest thing I found is where I explained why I *wasn’t* using the word “causal”. Therefore, I am unable to determine why you think that I accused Derek (or the Internet mob) of “causing” Frank’s death. (Obviously I also cannot figure out why you think I’ve abandoned an argument I never made.) For common every day usage, to say something was causal (or that it caused something) is to imply that it was very close to necessary and sufficient for the outcome to happen. To say something is contributory is different. You’ve already admitted that Frank Meza wasn’t of perfectly sound mind when he jumped off the bridge. You’ve provided no counter-argument to explain why factors which constrained his thinking are not contributory to a decision to jump.
The problem here, I suspect, is that you like Derek’s work and want him to be the perfect hero in this story. The perfect hero cannot contribute to anything that is bad. Therefore, if there is a bad outcome, it must entirely be pinned on some other person or group. That black-and-white logic may work well in movies but it doesn’t work in real life. I happen to generally like Derek’s work as well but that hasn’t kept me from realizing that even overall good motivations can contribute to bad outcomes. Once you realize that your good intentions and motivations can contribute to a bad outcome, you should try and figure out possible ways to pursue the good without contributing to the bad. (Or, at a minimum, pursue the good while minimizing contributions to the bad which, because we live in the real world, is the more likely outcome.)
You seem to think that this whole event is very simple. Maybe in that case you should ask yourself why Derek has needed so much time to get his thoughts down onto the screen. Probably because he realizes, far better than any of us in this thread, how complicated the issues really are.
SlowPoke: “I just went up and did a search for the word “cause” in this thread. The closest thing I found is where I explained why I *wasn’t* using the word “causal”. ”
Sure, you deny you were accusing others of “causing” FM’s death the same way Tsoukalos was insisting that it’s not aliens.
I am tired of your thicketude. Bye.
Wow, I must’ve really gotten under your skin. I’ve given you plenty of opportunities to engage in a serious discussion about the relevance of non-Frank Meza actors in this sad story. Yet at every juncture, your response basically amounts to “Frank was doing a bad thing by cheating [true] therefore when something bad happened only his actions were relevant.” That was still your argument right after you admitted he wasn’t rational when he jumped off the bridge. You’ve repeatedly constructed straw man versions of my arguments to fit your black-and-white views and gotten annoyed when I call you out. So I guess I can’t blame you for calling it quits.
For anybody who happens along and for some reason is interested in what I think the lessons of Frank Meza’s story are, here you go. I’m sure some will disagree and that’s fine. Also, not all of these are relevant to any given individual. And I realize that reasonable people will have different ways of applying these different ideas (well, at least for #1, 5, 6, and 8…).
1) Don’t cheat
2) When you are combating cheating, don’t let it get too personal and recognize that, fairly or unfairly, appearances matter
3) Keep the focus on the deed and don’t make assumptions about other parts of the person’s life. Even people who do wrong have intrinsic value and dignity
4) If there’s lots of coverage already and you want to say something, pause to consider if you’re going to be adding much value and how badly the trolls might misuse it
5) Don’t cheat
6) Don’t cheat
7a) Sometimes bad things happen.
7b) If bad things happen, look back and see if there’s anything that could be done differently. Many people making small changes can have a huge impact in aggregate.
8) Don’t. Cheat
Epic fail by me. #1, 5, 6 and 8 are the ones where everyone should agree on how to apply them, not the other way around.
I also forgot a lesson. If you cheat and somebody catches you, just admit it.
You do good work in exposing the cheaters, and provide them chances of owning up their actions. Cheaters can not handle the exposure of the truth and the consequences of their own decisions. They are quick to point their fingers on others when s!@# hits the fan. Not your fault, Derek, at any level!
All of the posts I have read on your site are excellent and very fair-minded.
Your journalistic standards equals or exceeds that of almost all US media i have read.
In case you require the opinions of us yahoos to inform your decisions related to MI… add me to the list as someone who recognizes you are not to “blame”, and who would very much like you to keep at it.
To the family and friends of Frank Meza:
I am truly sorry for your loss, and this is a tragedy indeed. I have read some more about Dr. Meza, and it sounds like he impacted a lot of people’s lives very positively.
May Frank Meza’s soul rest eternally in peace. I hope his family can mourn privately and with dignity. I also have full respect to Derek. He did nothing wrong and he reported only facts, from a situation he neither created nor embellished. Frank Meza is solely responsible for this entire situation and it’s outcome. We live in a world of individual accountability for one’s actions. It’s very sad he did what he did throughout this entire ordeal, but that responsibility is his alone.
I am a follower and strongly believe you did nothing wrong at all, you were very fair. Frank Meza got caught cheating 3 times over 10 years, and likely cheated many more times then that. The reality was, he gained a lot of prestige from these wins. He even listed himself as an unofficial world record holder on the Kaiser website. He put himself in the spotlight, and took away accolades from the rightful holders. The fact that he couldn’t face the truth coming out doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be reported. Even now, people are stilling trying to deny the truth of the matter. But truth does matter to your readers, and that is why you are appreciated.
I Have to give my 2 cents here. Having been a marathon runner for 30 years and having some good and some very very bad marathons I understand the urge to cut a course short. But those that repeatedly cheat should be identified and disqualified.
The site does a great service to the running community and needs to be expanded so with today’s technology running events be a fair event for ALL participants. If you intend to only run 1/2 the distance then run a 1/2 marathon instead of the marathon!
There are those among us that feel no guilt in doing what they know is wrong or unfair. Only public exposure (good & BAD) keeps these individuals honest. Keep it up!
Not trying to call you out, but you made an interesting comment. Have you really thought about cutting a course short because it wasn’t going well? I’ve been a runner for decades too, and have run many races in that time. I can honestly say that I have never even considered cutting a course. I have certainly thought about dropping out of few and just taking a DNF, but no way I would consider getting a DQ.
I can’t imagine how you feel. Please know that I and many of the fans of your work will support you no matter what you decide to do. Identifying cheaters is an important thing and this is a tragic situation. They aren’t mutually exclusive.
I hope you are able to be kind to yourself.
I concur with Erin. I appreciate your website. I have made the occasional snide comment here (but nothing like the cesspool at LR). I will temper that behavior, even further, in the future. I think, by and large, the commenters here are a sound bunch who are only interested in good sportsmanship.
Keep doing what you do Derek. It’s an appreciated effort.
Anyone who doubts Derek’s motives/demeanor I would encourage you to listen to the crazy podcast where he is thoroughly attacked by a triathlete’s hired pitbull. The man profanely attacks throughout and Derek and his cohost maintain their decorum. It’s a stunning display of diplomacy. I can’t find the podcast but the cheating triathlete story is here: https://www.marathoninvestigation.com/2018/07/disqualified-triathlete-anita-carcone.html )
The thing I find so amazing about all of this is that Frank was likely a very fast runner for his age without having to cheat. Shouldn’t that have been enough? The evidence is overwhelming — sadly Frank cheated. Too bad he chose to end his life, but that’s on him, not Derek. Keep up the good work!
There is no evidence he was particularly fast for his age. None at all.
Derek I’ve read your website for a long time and I appreciate the way that you want to keep the sport clean. I’ll probably never get my BQ but if I ever did it would be with the smallest of margins. For this reason I support wholeheartedly your quest to help clean up the sport. While the suicide that led us to today is something none of us wanted to see I feel that a lot of people surrounding it had time to resolve the cheating a long time before we got to the month of July. Inaction on other people’s parts, denial of the truth along with some awful posting on other sites as well as disgusting behaviour of some people contacting Frank Mezas place of employment really led to a horrible ending of the life of someone that possibly had serious mental health issues. While these many things happened I do not think that your interpretation of the facts led to Franks death we must always remember that this site has more than likely led to a lot of people not cheating for fear of getting caught which had always been your objective. I simpatise with you and the family of Frank Meza and cannot imagine how you or his family feel right now. As difficult as this situation has been for you I hope that you continue to scrutinise these cheaters and uphold the integrity of running. For those of us that are eternal amateurs you do an amazing job in researching and giving every person caught the possibility of coming clean before you publish your full findings. I wish you all the best Derek. We all have flaws but I believe that you are a good person at heart and should bare no blame in the untimely death of Frank Meza.
Journalism: subjecting powerful factions and figures to critical scrutiny.
Not Journalism: scrounging around in the lives of non-public figures to shame and humiliate them.
Derek, at least have the decency to admit that you did this because you’re hungry for clicks. Nothing about Marathon Investigation’s pursuit of Frank Meza entailed genuinely newsworthy questions, and the revelations had zero public interest. It was just humiliating someone and trying to destroy his life for fun, for its own sake.
You might consider the work you do to be journalistic in nature, Derek. But journalism is about exposing the bad acts of powerful individuals and institutions…
The mainstream media had no problem writing about Frank’s disqualification. Inside Edition knocked on his door, GMA did a story. ABC Nightly News was planning a story before Frank’s suicide. Pretty much every major news source wrote stories BEFORE July 4th.
I did no digging into Frank’s personal life. I only wrote about his races.
I disagree completely that the scope of journalism should only be the powerful people/institutions. Nor should it only be used for critical scrutiny. Just as one example, what about stories that celebrate the accomplishments/quirks of the common man? Or should journalists never write about the effect of local gangs on a neighborhood because they’re not public figures? I doubt that any journalist or journalism school would agree with you. Also, I don’t think Derek is trying earn a “Journalism” badge through his work. He is simply investigating cheaters at running events in order to preserve the integrity of the sport and to right wrongs such as when cheaters get BQ times and keep honest runners out.
Joe P. your logic is broken.
A man (wrongfully) claiming a world record has made himself a public figure. Also many, many people do bad things every day (crimes) and make themselves public figures by doing so. That’s why you hear about the fellow who held up the Quikie Mart on the news, or the woman who left her kid in a hot car, or the high schooler who took advantage of a drunk girl. None were public figures before.
Mr. Meza had a substantial pattern of cheating. He was DQed from races before LA. He claimed podiums he was not entitled to, he claimed on a professional website a record he likely didn’t earn. And he was in a position to influence a team of young people. Was what he did a crime? Probably not. But he deserved the scrutiny and he could have easily confessed to Derek when given the opportunity – before Derek broke the first story. (And Derek has explained many stories anonymously when people have confessed why they did something). Instead Meza and his buddies threatened, and others quickly began investigating his other races. This is a pattern of deceit.
Finally, everyone who visits this site (and Let’s Run and a bunch of other sites like them) demonstrates there is a public interest. We don’t like cheaters in the sport.
Journalism is about recording events or thoughts which might be of some interest to oneself or others. Just because you disagree with the content, it doesn’t invalidate the action. I’d hate to see how narrow your definition of free speech or art is. God help us if we lived in that world.
FM was caught stealing a record from some real-life epic runners. He made himself into a public persona. Plus, he had clearly sought and enjoyed notoriety if you look at old interviews. And clearly the revelations did not have zero public interest.
Joe P. I make no apologies for saying that you are talking nonsense.
A person claiming a world record is certainly a public figure.
And when someone who isn’t a public figure gets caught out for unethical or illegal behavior, that is also newsworthy.
You have no idea what journalism is.
Here’s what I don’t like.
On July 1, you have an article announcing LA disqualified Frank.
On July 3rd, you wrote another article about Frank (his 2015, 2017 LA races, 2014 SF race).
On July 4th, you wrote ANOTHER article about Frank. This one about his bike riding picture.
If your aim was simply to catch cheaters, then your goal was accomplished on July 1. So why write 2 additional articles on Frank? How many more would you have written if he didn’t kill himself?
My guess is that this site isn’t simply about catching cheaters. If that was the only goal, you could communicate directly with RDs and only publish simple notes when someone is disqualified.
Furthermore, I’ve run 10+ marathons and never been concerned with cheaters. I’m middle of the pack and “race” against the clock/myself, not others (that’s the beauty of running to me). I truly wonder what % of runners care about cheaters. My guess is that it’s a tiny, but vocal, minority that has found a home on the internet.
I posted without reading the previous comments. In a nutshell, I agree with Slowpoke, who is much more elegant than me.
If most of the people didn’t care if I vandalized your mailbox or broke the law by doing some other small damage to your property, would you be upset? Should the police not catch/punish the person who damaged your property if most people aren’t concerned about something so minor? And what if the person kept doing it because most people didn’t care? Would you be able to accept the situation? I don’t think it’s good for society (or one’s soul) to judge the rightness of an act based on the percentage of people who care.
And I actually think most runners do care about cheaters–though not all of them would regularly visit a site like MI. If you asked runners, “Are you in favor of preventing/catching/punishing (by banning them from future races) cheating in races you participate in?” I think a high majority would say yes. If you asked runners, “Are you okay if there is rampant cheating in races you participate in?” I think a high majority would say no. I wonder what your answers would be.
Frank was denying that he cheated. In essence calling Derek a liar. He had someone call and threaten him. Derek has a right to repudiate that. Additional articles were posted as additional evidence came to light. If Frank had confessed and apologized, then there would have been nothing further to write about beyond that.
I’m not setting any records out there, but I absolutely compare myself to other runners — especially those in my age group — in addition to the clock. Unless you just run the same race every year, comparing yourself to your peers is the best way to know if you had a good race. Heck, I even find myself “competing” with others on my regular trail runs. (I especially love passing mountain bikers.)
Pain is temporary; internet race results are forever!
Frank still had a LOT of races that were allowed to stand in which he had cheated. He also continuously claimed he was being falsely accused and threatened legal action. He even made claims that Derek and others were racists and that’s why he was being targeted! This absurdity was even given some credence in one newspaper.
Frank deserved disqualification from all of his runs for at least 8 years and a lifetime ban. That hadn’t happened.
Jean (July 19:10:52am)
“For those of you intent on exposing cheaters, why not go after the race organizations and demand more accountability from them? ”
I understand the way you feel about losing a neighbour and friend, but this is yet another example of blame shifting. Almost like, ‘don’t go after the shop lifter, blame the shop for not catching him’.
May I preface by saying that I do not know Derek, and follow his good work from the other end of the globe, because marathon running has been my life, and following statistics and legend like Ed Whitlock enthuses me.
MI only investigated when then the pattern of Frank’s times over many races indicated clear cheating.
MI only ‘exposed’ Frank after he was given the evidence, but doubled down and continued to lie.
MI only continued investigating when Frank threatened legal action, colleagues jumped to his defence and friends trolled LetsRun with threats and deceptive versions to cast doubt.
In the light of legal threats, LAM could not disqualify Frank until they had done their own investigation, including unequivocal CCTV footage from the route. Despite this Frank brushed it off as a mere pit stop.
Stop blaming the good work done by honest people like Derek at MI, and focus instead on “cleaning the problems in your own town” as you say, in fact the problems living right next to you
The only conceivable way for Frank to “get back” at the running community was for him to take his own life. I’m certain it crossed his mind that his suicide would lead to finger pointing and scrutiny pertaining to “cyberbullies” and those who had exposed his fraud. With his death, he sought to turn the tables on his “persecutors” and to turn himself into the “victim”.
As with his cheating, his selfish decision to end his life harmed his family and those around him more than he harmed himself.
Before Derek’s investigative work, there were those who scoffed at the notion that there would be anyone who would cheat to get into Boston, and now we are beginning to see the lengths to which folks will go in order to achieve accolades both big and small relating to the seemingly insignificant sport of running.
Those who are exposed as cheaters will often attempt to lash back at those who have exposed them, and it is Derek who faces the heat and scrutiny. I’d like to thank Derek for enduring that scrutiny and for helping to maintain the integrity of our sport.
Thanks for the work you do Derek. I’m glad you plan to keep exposing cheaters.
Other cheaters exposed on this site didn’t kill themselves, and in fact go on cheating. Others stopped cheating after being exposed. No one could predict a man would kill himself and the effect of that goes far beyond the cheating exposure. The man would have gone on cheating without the exposure.
I’ve run 95 marathons and I’m 60 years old. If I “race” a marathon, I want my AG award if I earned it.
Derek is exceptionally balanced and fair in his approach. He gives everyone the benefit of the doubt, and he only publishes carefully researched analyses based on clear facts. Anyone who thinks otherwise just isn’t paying attention.
Frank Meza’s death was a tragedy. But, the only one responsible for what happened was Frank Meza. Dr. Meza was clearly a complicated man – tremendous achievements, coupled with some inexplicable but obvious failings. I hope his family and friends are able to celebrate and to focus on the former, but the latter were also part of the man himself. Dr. Meza was not in unique, though – we all have our flaws, but we are better off if we try to be honest about them.
Derek, You do great work and were not in any way or shape responsible for his death.
This cheater was caught, and despite overwhelming evidence, chose to refute the allegations.
He was offered, time and time again, a forum to either a) Dispute the charges and give a plausible explanation for why it appeared he cut the course or b) come clean and accept the fact that he cheated and ask for the running community to forgive him.
I firmly believe that if he would have given a meaningful apology and perhaps a reason for his cheating than he would have received both understanding and forgiveness.
Unfortunately, he chose the easy way out. He left his wife a widow and his children fatherless. Instead of working hard and accepting the consequences, he chose, with his own free will, to end his life.
It is always sad when someone chooses to end their life, however, it was his choice to make and he made it himself.
I believe running is a sport built on honor and I appreciate the work you do to keep the less honorable people from ruining it for the rest of us.
Derek, you are a needed and valuable voice in the running community. Meza is the only party responsible here. Turn the page.
Mr. Murphy compiled proof about the cheating. In the event that he chooses to discontinue MI, I hope others will work to ensure the integrity of running events. Why bother to participate if there is not a reasonable expectation of accurate results.
Dr. Mesa cheated. Doctors cheat like everybody else. We put so much misguided faith in doctors that many of them develop a superiority complex. Did he really expect people to believe that he defeated the 2nd place finisher in his age group by 1 hour and 17 minutes ? Are the rest of us that stupid because we did not go to medical school ?
Never be afraid of telling a hard unpleasant truth.
I did an Ironman-distance triathlon as a 52-year-old, finishing 7th overall and beat the 2nd place guy in my age group by over 90 minutes. It does happen. And the older the age group, the more likely the disparity.
What I have truly enjoyed about your research is the insight into the pathological liar. This is a rare personality to correctly identify, and yet here they are found in a ridiculous high frequency. You can count on other mental illness to be present in addition to this psychological pathology. Only the truly psychopathic won’t fall into some kind of depression from being exposed. My point is you are probably already selecting for people with psychiatric issues. Is that a reason to shut this down to not aggravate a potentially unstable person? That is the question you have to ask yourself. There will be more Frank Mesa’s. Personally I hope you keep at it but I understand why may feel in over your head.
^^^ This is a really important point. Amateurs who cheat for amateur glory are already among the subset of people with problems. It’s fine to report on them, but the bigger we blow it up, the more harm we can do. And many commentators seem to have no understanding of the fact that these cheaters are often unwell in a way that should release them from vitriol if not some blameworthiness.
Cheaters aren’t victims. That’s like saying “only a psychologically disturbed person would abuse their child. Should you really add to their troubles?” Psychopathy should be revealed because it’s a character trait that thrives on doing harm to others. They have control and make day-by-day decisions to lie, cheat, and steal because they figure the benefit is worth the risk. Removing risk only encourages bad people to do bad things.
I hope one day Marathon Investigation is no longer needed and Derek can close up shop – because people stop cheating in races. Until then, I hope he carries on this good and, unfortunately, necessary work despite the critics.
I don’t think Derek had bad intentions, and I don’t think he should be blamed for what happened to Frank. But, jeez guys. Take a look around. It’s clear that the commentariat has a bizarre and almost unhinged hate-on for cheating, and the vitriol is incredibly unsettling to many of the rest of us. Derek shouldn’t be blamed, but that doesn’t mean he can’t learn from this experience and act differently in the future. And I hope he will.
As for the rest of you… I don’t know where any of you turn for character adjustment. Some of us have therapists and some of us have religion and some of us have families and philosophies. I suggest you all spend some time with your character-adjustment systems and figure out how to oppose cheating without the kind of vitriol spewed at this site, its accompanying Facebook group, the “Let’s Run” pages, and so on.
It is possible, after all, to oppose cheating but also to maintain basic human sentiments like mercy, forgiveness, patience, and tact.
I hope many parties will act differently in the future:
1. Cheaters need to quit doubling down and accept that the gig is up once sufficient evidence surfaces.
2. Family and friends need to stop enabling the cheaters (by defending them even after the evidence is clear). Attacking the whistleblowers serves no purpose but to escalate a bad situation.
3. Race directors need to dispense with the “head in the sand” attitude. They need to recognize that if they refuse to deal with the issue of cheating, the issue will ultimately deal with them.
4. The USATF needs to require races to implement cheat prevention guidelines in order to receive certification. What good is making sure that the course is perfectly measured if there no integrity regarding the participants?
5. The BAA needs to stop accepting qualifying times from races that do not take cheating seriously.
1 and 2 are personal matters. 3 and 4 I think would actually make the overall experience of being in a race worse, but that’s just my opinion and I grant that others might feel differently. BAA can do as it best sees fit, in my view, and I have no stronger opinion as to what it “should” do. I think low-stakes cheating of the kind Frank Meza did is basically a non-issue, but that’s only because I think the elite field is the only group that really matters. Everyone else is just doing a fun run. There’s nothing wrong with a fun run, of course, but it shouldn’t guide regulatory policy IMHO.
I agree with your desire for mercy, forgiveness, patience and tact…but let me counterpoint your earlier statement about a ‘unhinged hate-on for cheating.’
I went to a military academy with an Honor Code that stated “A cadet will not lie, cheat or steal nor tolerate those who do.” Man, that’s a tough ethical code to adhere to. Esp. the part about ‘tolerate those who do.’ It speaks to an internal war between loyalty to friends and loyalty to a higher cause – in this case an ethic. And it was scary in implementation at the beginning. If you got any help on any assignment….you best note it in your work. You could, in fact, copy your classmates work AND CITE it as a copy. Your grade might be commensurate with the amount of work YOU did but there would be no deception.
But as scary as it was in the early days of our freshman year it became second nature to just live honestly. Let’s be frank, some people stumbled and often the price was expulsion. In older days (decades ago) those that weren’t expelled but were still deemed offenders might face ‘silencing’ – a grievous, unauthorized punishment where no one would speak to the prior offender. I do not support such a strategy.
But the side benefits of this were crazy to those of us who live in the real world. That place was a utopia of sorts. You trusted other implicitly. There were no locks on doors and if you had a prior agreement with someone you could borrow anything, or be borrowed from, with the understanding that it would be returned in a timely manner. A person’s word was their bond, accepted without question. Sure, the occasional scandal would rock the place where an individual or group failed to adhere to the code. They were given their day in court and were acquitted, suspended, or expelled as required by the situation. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a better society than what we all live in.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we all lived in a place like that? Or more like that. I’m not perfect and I’m not advocating we DEMAND perfection. But it sure would be nice if things were better. I do think that if you cheat on little, insignificant things like a footrace you are certainly more prone to do it elsewhere in your life. Lies always beget more lies. A thief will rationalize from stealing what they need to what they want.
I wish this hadn’t happened. Meza and his family, esp., deserved better. But the final tragic actions were his own. Mercy, forgiveness, patience and tact come after the apology and acknowledgement of wrongdoing he, sadly, never offered.
CCB, if you’re former military then I probably don’t need to tell you how pervasive a problem suicide is among veterans. Approaching civilian ethics by using militant codes of honor strikes me as being self-evidently bad.
The real question here is, if you could prevent one of these suicides by tempering the vitriol of your commentary, wouldn’t you do it? I’d submit that those who answer “no” to this question are zealots, and there is no shortage of human suffering caused by the intolerance of zealotry.
We’re all against dishonesty. Some of us just so happen to be also against militant utopian zealotry.
Nothing about this situation is really funny. But your final sentence is just silly.
What is also interesting (if not amusing) is that as I re read this thread I was thinking about the prevalence of military suicide … largely driven by PTSD. I’ve actually spent a good deal of time studying that subject – in fact I have written two peer reviewed journal articles and spoken on the topic.
It actually had me increasingly upset as I realized again the old maxim that ‘suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.’ I actually think that under the tiniest of margins/circumstances suicide or assisted suicide is not a net bad. But I actively work to prevent it nonetheless. IMO, FMs circumstances didn’t fit in that margin, so I view it as sad and unnecessary. His family certainly deserves all due consideration.
I already mentioned above that the vitriol is over the top (see LRs website) and we should all be better to one another. I ain’t a zealot.
Finally, my previous post wasn’t about laying a military code on civilian ethics, it was highlighting what could be if we all acted more responsibly. BTW, many civilian universities have very similar Honor Codes…few have a non-toleration clause…and perhaps fewer still actually enforce them appropriately. But it’s not JUST a military thing. We are capable of behaving this way.
Also, I think a lot of these posts right now are doing a good job of trying to understand the problem, suss out the learning points here and do better across the board. Which is an important step.
RPLong: I’ve heard words like this often: “unhinged hate,” “vitriol”. Where have you seen this on MI? Can you point to or paste any specific comments that qualify? I admit that on LR there are some immature trolls who say some terrible things, but where do you see it at MI? Can you point to anything that Derek has written that qualifies? Is it fair to hold Derek responsible–since you’re asking him to change how he does things–for what other people write on someone else’s website?
What if I said that all the people who write unhinged defenses for cheaters like FM or write vitriolic attacks against those who investigate cheaters enable a culture of cheating, that someone who was denied a BQ because of cheaters committed suicide because he was so depressed by the lack of empathy for his situation and by the prospect of such a culture continuing to exist indefinitely, and so those unhinged zealous defenders should be held responsible? Would that be a fair reaction? If not, why not?
Very good question; there is no ‘vitriol’ here among the posters on this thread, nor with Derek individually. There’s no ‘unhinged’ anything here. Even at Letsrun, the overwhelming posture through this entire thing has been one of uncovering basic facts to uphold the sport’s integrity. A few immature trolls hinted at more personal insults to Meza, but that small minority does not comprise ‘the commentariat’.
If someone makes wide generalizations, especially coupled with statements about readjusting one’s moral compass, then he/she should point to specific examples or refrain from painting everyone with a broad, unicolored brush.
Hi, S.K. I think your request for specific comments is entirely fair. You ask, “Can you point to anything that Derek has written that qualifies?”
The first thing that comes to mind is this post: https://www.marathoninvestigation.com/2019/06/jd-greening-is-running-again-for-mayor.html
This post was written ostensibly for no other reason than to rehash JD Greening’s cheating controversy, which had already been fully covered. The fact that Greening decided to run for mayor is completely irrelevant to Marathon Investigation. I can only think of a few reasons why Derek would write this post. One is to gain website traffic from Greening’s reentry into the news. Another is to imply that Greening is a poor mayoral candidate based on his past marathon behavior. Any way you shake it, this post is not newsworthy from a road racing standpoint and ventures close to either political advocacy or perhaps continuing a personal vendetta after Greening had attempted to move on with his life. Not cool.
You also ask, “Is it fair to hold Derek responsible–since you’re asking him to change how he does things–for what other people write on someone else’s website?”
I thought I had made it clear above that I *DON’T* hold Derek responsible. That said, it’s unreasonable to claim that Derek is incapable of acting any better. In a Facebook comment, I suggested that he could have compiled most of the information about Frank Meza in a single post and left it at that. Perhaps two or three posts. Instead, I could *ELEVEN* of them. There is such a thing as overkill. To suggest that writing eleven separate posts on the same issue wasn’t fanning some flames is a tad unreasonable, in my opinion. I like the phrase “Measure twice, cut once.” One does not have to act unethically to be able to act more ethically in the future. Perhaps a more ethical approach to catching marathon cheaters is to post 2 or 3 highly informative posts, rather than ELEVEN posts that mostly rehash the same information repeatedly. You’re entitled to disagree, but my question is if eleven is not too many posts, how many would be too many? How many articles on the same person would be considered excessive? Twenty? Thirty? What’s the right number here?
Finally, as to what other comments reflected vitriol, one comment on Derek’s Facebook group stands out to me the most. After news of Frank Meza’s death broke, someone in the group posted a link to a separate and unrelated tragedy and stated that he felt sorrier for the victim of that other tragedy than he did for Frank Meza. Another commentator suggested that if Frank was willing to cheat in a marathon, perhaps his medical license is invalid (!!!). This kind of commentary qualifies as vitriol, in my opinion. Really, I’d call it mob-mentality crazy-talk. Frank Meza cheated, and that’s too bad. But to call his whole life into question over some amateur road racing silliness is really unhinged, in my book.
I hope this answers your questions. I don’t expect that we’ll see eye-to-eye, but your comment was written respectfully, and from that I conclude that you are probably not part of the problem here. 🙂
The first MI article on Meza was, IMO, circumstantial and unconvincing, a sequence of photos of him entering the LA Marathon course from the side without a complete view of the street and sidewalks. The evidence accumulated slowly over a month as several people combed through hundreds of marathon photos and videos, eventually finding numerous photos of Dr. Meza on the sidewalk, next to cars, and finally riding a bike during a marathon. To ask for one or two conclusive articles doesn’t reflect the nature of the investigation and Dr. Meza’s attempts to conceal his cheating. I don’t see how it could have been different without Avengers:Endgame time travel.
I think this is an excellent comment. The goal of this site is, IMO, a noble one. All the articles here seem to be only fact-based. But I think there is a legitimate criticism concerning the volume of coverage. Was it too much? What is too much? It’s not really a question whether or not Mr. Meza cheated. He clearly did… repeatedly. But the amount of coverage this site generated probably contributed to the story “going viral”.
On the one hand, the fact that it went viral was probably the only reason the LA Marathon was compelled to issue the disqualification, which was the right thing to do. On the other hand, the fact that it went viral must have brought a ton more pressure on Mr. Meza and likely contributed to the tragedy.
So what’s the solution? I think ideally, races should police themselves, especially for standout performances. If they had, fairness in the sport would have been maintained, the public eye barely notices and this tragedy probably never occurs. Outside of that, MI should keep doing what they are doing, but maybe be more mindful of the momentum they create and impact it can have.
I am addressing a lot of this in my next post. The story went viral only after the disqualification was reported. When The Times reported on the DQ, the article was syndicated and published nationally. After that, national TV and radio started to report.
I will address the volume of articles. I was reporting new information each time, and felt forced to respond to the denials. The denials were being made on much larger platforms than MI, and the evidence was being questioned by people such as The LA Deputy District Attorney. He actually claimed that the accusations were libelous.
Thanks for the civil reply. Derek said that he’ll address concerns like yours in his next article, so I won’t address the FM issue.
But regarding the JD Greening article you mentioned as an example of vitriol at MI, I have a couple of things to say. 1) If that’s the best example of vitriol or unhinged-ness on Derek’s part or on those who appreciate his work, it makes for a pretty weak argument, and shows why so many people think that it’s wrong to attribute misbehavior or maliciousness to Derek/MI as a cause for what happened to FM. 2) You’re right. You did say that you don’t hold Derek responsible, but when you ask him to change how he does his work, it does mean that you think he’s doing something wrong. But even in the case of Greening, I don’t agree. Reading the articles, I don’t see something who thinks that he’s done anything wrong. Instead, the last time Derek writes about him, he is trying to blame the course and the course organizers for his mistake while at the same time bragging about his marathon prowess on social media. Had he come clean and admitted that he had intentionally cheated and tried to take credit for something he hadn’t done, I firmly believe that Derek would not have written the follow up on his mayoral candidacy. But since he did not do that, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the follow-up article. After all, JDG was running for public office and telling people, in effect, I’m worthy of your trust, of your tax dollars. I think such people should be held accountable, so I’m glad that politicians are held to such scrutiny. But even then, I don’t think Derek did it in a sensationalizing, self-promoting, spiteful way, such as contacting the local media or perhaps contacting his political opponents.
I think we both agree that there are many things wrong in our society, many things wrong online. But I think Derek – both in what he does and especially how he does it – is actually a model of civility and fairness, and the very opposite of what he’s accused of being. When I see so much ugly hatred and factless name-calling passing as discussion online, it confounds me when people think Derek is a part of the problem.
I agree. One of the things that has bothered me during this ordeal has been the number of people who have only generically opined on the ‘mob mentality’, rabid haters, cyber-bullying, etc, without citing specifics or perhaps not having seen the entirety of the threads at Letsrun, MI or elsewhere. I followed every post on this topic at Letsrun (the forum most often criticized), and, overwhelmingly, the comments were factual and had only a handful of personal attacks by obviously trolling posters. By and large, those commenting stayed on-topic and clearly seemed motivated only by exposing the facts necessary to have Meza’s race results invalidated, as they should have been because they were not genuine.
The guy running for mayor is obviously newsworthy. It’s the definition of public interest. He is a cheater who has never acknowledged his cheating who used it for political glory.
What wouldn’t be public interest is a dude moving or getting a new job or getting married.
I think you have it partly right, there is contempt for cheating but what most people find far worse and unforgiveable are denials and legal threats in the face of undeniable evidence. For those who make the point “Why so many articles?” I would have to ask whether you were paying attention, the evidence came out one incriminating series of photos at a time, not all in one nice package. To not address these in a clear, coherent way as Derek did would have been to lose their meaning so that each set could be dismissed as more “grainy, inconclusive photos that could be anybody” by the various trolls and sockpuppets some of whom were quite obviously Meza supporters.
Meza didn’t kill himself because he was hopeless. He had a family that was enough under his control to believe him in the face of indisputable evidence and a career that was entirely secure even though he was long past retirement age. He killed himself in an act of selfishness, revenge, and a desire to avoid all possibly of owning up to his cheating. I really suspect that the races were just the tip of the iceberg of things that might come out. His cheating was incredibly carefully and elaborately planned, which shows an approach to it that is very unlikely to be isolated. If he was hopeless, which I don’t think he was, it would have been because the first thread of something much bigger was unraveling.
Total support for MI and Derek. Thank you for the work you do.
Meza was a serial cheater who was unrepentant and would have continued cheating based on his history. He got caught claiming a world record (WR) in the marathon for males over 70. He was not some back of the pack guy that got singled out. He was claiming a WR. Our sport has been hurt over the years by rampant cheating and PED use. Meza was part of the problem. MI along w many others reported on Meza and his history of cheating. He persisted in his claiming innocence in face of undeniable evidence to the contrary. This brings great disrepute on our sport as a whole. MI along w many other new outlets along w the race administrators came to this conclusion of Meza serial cheating. The world news reports on hundreds of similar situation both in sports, business and every day life daily. Meza ending his life was unforeseen and sad however his decision should not chill future reporting on similar subjects. The truth and our sport requires it.
Continue doing your work. You have never made anyone cheat, nor have you made anyone hurt themselves. But understandably you feel badly. Take some time. But you are supported.
You did nothing wrong Derek. You provided factual information. What people do with it is up to them. People have to live with the consequences of their actions. Don’t let a handful of trolls who are causing false-alarm commotions because they either don’t like you or likely they were outed by you discourage you. A lot of people out there are behind you.
Wow. I’ve always had a bad feeling about this site and I’ve voiced it in comments throughout the years.
Franks death is not Derek’s fault directly but he is not free from responsibility. It is his fault indirectly. That must weigh heavy.
If he’s so passionate about catching cheaters maybe he should still catch them so they get DQEd but stop making money off of public shaming them. I hope this site gets put to rest.
It’s not normal to be shamed by millions of people. And these people are not actual criminals , robbers or killers, they cheated a freakin marathon . Perspective people.
I don’t recall seeing anything in Derek’s articles which claimed that those who cheat in Marathons are criminals, robbers, or killers. His articles are about cheating in Marathons, and any shame which may or may not be felt is in relation to cheating in Marathons. Since cheating in Marathons is a relatively minor moral infraction, the commensurate shame is also relatively minor.
K: Here’s another perspective. I think what’s really shameful is cheating (often in multiple races, and presumably would continue to cheat unless Derek exposed them), and then boasting about it on social media–not to mention being callously indifferent about taking away BQ spots or AG podium finishes from legitimate runners. Doesn’t that sound like the definition of shameful, self-centered hubris? It boggles my mind that some people don’t find this to be shameful behavior, or think that Derek’s behavior is worse than that of the cheaters. I will go on record as saying that such cheaters should be ashamed. And as most them boast publicly about their ill-gotten accomplishments, I have no problem with their being publicly shamed. Let’s remember that Derek contacts them privately first and gives them a chance to come clean and have the results set straight. So even the public-ness of their shame is the cheaters’ responsibility. From my perspective, all the bad, shame-deserving behavior is on the part of the cheaters/liars.
100% correct. It seems many people keep missing the reality that these cheaters are doing so in public forums and then accepting public accolades for their cheating – often initiating and welcoming the public attention. We’re not talking about personal things like someone cheating in a marriage, which is also wrong of course but should be a private matter between the immediate people involved. If you deceive the public in a public setting and boast about it publicly, then public exposure is fair. But, as you said, Derek gives them the chance to address the matters privately before publishing anything. That is more than fair.
Frank Meza’s death is nobody’s fault but his own. Derek reports facts with no goal other than to get bogus race results removed. The only reasons why any shame occurs are because the liars commit the offenses in the first place and then they lie more to deflect from their behavior. That is shameful by its very nature, and these people inflame the situation every time they lie.
How many articles do you think would ever get published if, when contacted about their suspicious results, these cheaters would come clean and apologize contritely? Everybody shows bad judgement at some point in their life. The initial lies are rarely what draws the most ire; it’s the persistent lying and cover-ups.
Derek draws the truth to light in a fair and non-emotional way. This is inherently a good thing. The consequences of the truth being known are owned by the person who committed the deceit. Let’s quit encouraging a culture where people aren’t accountable for their decisions. Accountability is the flip side to personal freedom. You can’t have a free society without individual accountability. It’s immutable.
Derek performs a service to the running public and race directors. He does so mostly by donating his free time. His time has value. There’s nothing wrong with him accepting money to defray his costs and recoup some of the value of his time. If you think he’s turning a big profit (or any profit) here, then I think you have overestimated the situation. Either way, if you don’t like the site or think Derek shouldn’t accept any donations for his work, then don’t bother coming here and generating traffic for the site. You’re encouraging the behavior you claim to oppose.
I presume Derek spends a lot of time doing this work. Running the website itself is not without expense. I imagine he also doesn’t make much in donations, probably break even.
Regardless, he provides a service many of us appreciate. I hope he continues. He’s deterring cheating.
This really is very simple:
FM was found out
FM was disqualified
FM killed himself.
These are the facts. No one in the running community who worked to hold up the integrity of the sport by bringing this to light has any responsibility for how this ended.
What FM’s family and community need to ask themselves is why they did not get him the help he needed. There was enough evidence that should have raised concerns to those closest to him and made it obvious that some sort of intervention was needed.
Meza cheated in many marathons and claimed a world record.
I actually think that while some people should be called out in detailed articles, EVERYONE who ends up disqualified for cheating should be listed publicly at the end of articles about a race.
A list of names like John Smith: missing mats and improbable splits; Jane Doe: Self disqualified at course finish; Don Knotts: Pacer, ran partial course and accidentally included as a finisher; Tammy White: missed down and back; Reggie Black: redirected prematurely and not DNF’d because of race admin error, etc, would be the appropriate about of attention for these “minor” cases, including those that weren’t cheating at all.
This would actually focus less attention on single individuals and increase the chances that people will think twice. It would also highlight administrative issues that race directors have. Finally, it would put the serial or public persona or top cheaters into the context of the bigger picture. Yes, some people deserve more scrutiny because they’re bigger cheaters. But everyone should have some public attention, since the race itself is a public act.
The idea of diluting attention away from any one person is an interesting one as is highlighting issues at the race director level. But are you sure that all your examples are good examples of minor cheating? I mean, if I was Reggie Black in your example who was just running where he was told, I’d be pretty pissed to find myself included on a public list with John Smith. Or did you mean something else by redirected prematurely? I’m imagining a guy who wasn’t able to maintain the minimum pace and was directed onto a shortened course. Certainly fair not to give him an official finisher result, but that seems a far cry from cheating.
You’ve got my support, Derek. I don’t think your reporting is to blame for anything in this case. FM chose his path in life as a Cheater, and the end result was always gonna be the same when busted. Age records are for Real Champions not cheaters, so thank you for your work. I feel sorry for the pain this case brings you.
A sport without integrity is not a sport, it is a sham. I fully support Derek and the work he does. As far as I can tell he NEVER has posted anything publicly without fully supported evidence and having reached out to the person to get their side of the story.
I have financially supported Derek in the past and will do so in the future.
Derek, the work that you do is so incredibly important. I never will be showing up at a race with the thought that I can place, let alone win. But I work hard to achieve what I get. To those who won’t do the work, I don’t want them out there with me. Some people think it doesn’t affect them for others to be taking what isn’t theirs but it cheapens everything we do. This work should be done by an official organization overseeing all events nationally and internationally. Since it’s not, I’m glad that someone has taken up the mantle.
You are not responsible for his actions. Your reporting has always been fair, honest and thorough, that is why I come to the site. It’s not a gotcha, it’s not badgering offenders or misleading the readers. It is honest and balanced. Of course people who get caught will get mad, it’s human nature. The people are embarrassed they were caught and we always want to blame someone else. It’s the officer’s fault for giving me that ticket, of the refs fault I messed up when they missed a call or…well we could go on forever with that. People have ample opportunity to provide their side of the story, their facts and data or even come clean and admit their mistake. What happened was sad and I feel for his family, but it was his choice and his actions that lead to it, you bear no responsibility for it. I hope the site is fully going again very soon and providing the service that it does and making sure our sport is held to a high standard. Thank you for what you do.
The whole unfortunate situation has me thinking of the concept of burden of truth. In a criminal case, the prosecution has the burden of proof. The defendant doesn’t have to prove innocence. However, when someone is claiming an accomplishment, such as an age group marathon world best (not WR, as some have said, because the courses aren’t eligible), or pushing other participants in their age group off the podium, they have some responsibility to prove what they have done — such as being sure that they hit every timing mat, stay on course except for necessary relief breaks, and have their race number clearly visible from the front for observers and photos, and otherwise follow the published rules.
As a race timer of nearly two decades, I’ve experienced this from both sides. It’s rare when people cheat, but if I don’t take action and remove the result not only am I not doing my job, I am in essence incentivizing the practice. I’ve been excoriated in person, over the phone, in texts and emails, as well as on social media for removing known incomplete performances from a race. I’ve known race directors who have been threatened with lawsuits for doing the same thing.
I’ve also seen runners I’ve removed from results completely pounded on social media for their actions, and while I feel bad that they’ve had to endure that, I’m hopeful that they’ll learn and grow from the experience. These are almost always people who live for and get hooked on the attention, so there is always a risk that they could harm themselves as a result, especially with the amplification of social media.
I recent years, I’ve given up responding on social media except to say that I stand by the race director and I’s decision and have documented evidence that I will share upon request. It’s really hard at times for me not to post the evidence directly, but for me that usually has only served to fan the flames.
For the past several years I’ve encouraged all races I time to adopt a disputed results policy which requires runners whose results are in question to prove they completed the course, instead of me proving they didn’t, and also that they abide by RD’s decision on the matter. All runners must initial their acceptance of this in order to participate in the race.
I can’t imagine what you’re going through, but I truly appreciate what you do and how you do it. You are thorough, contentious, and caring. You always are judicious about protecting a runner’s identity and you always encourage the runner to tell their side. My experience is that most of these people are indignant and hateful for being called out, and that’s no fun either. At the end of the day, there is simply no way to bring these things into the light (which needs to be done) without risking that others will misuse the information to start a feeding frenzy.
I wish you wisdom, comfort, and many blessings in the times ahead and I do hope you decide to continue your excellent work.
I just wanted to post a quick note in support of Derek’s efforts with this website. I think there has already been a lot of good discussion above about personal accountability and blame. Rather than going down that road I thought it might be interesting to speak a little about why Derek’s work is important to me personally.
After years of battling leg injuries and setbacks I have finally been able to return to running again. I’m on the backside of my running “career” if you will but I have still some bucket list items that I would like to accomplish before my times start to trend in the wrong direction. I will never finish first in my age group much less win a marathon but these goals still mean a lot to me.
Over the last two years I have finally been able to run BQ times but I have been just shy of the cut off time required to gain entry to Boston. As someone who has missed the cut by mere seconds multiple times I can tell you first hand that Derek’s work matters. Catching a couple of cheaters can literally be the difference between making and missing the cut for runners in my situation.
Training for these races requires months of commitment and it’s definitely disappointing to miss out by such a small margin. With that said, I have never entertained the thought of cutting a course to get that BQ. I will come back next year hopefully a little faster, ready to compete for that BQ once again. It definitely helps to know that someone like Derek is out there trying to keep these races honest though as every second matters.
Keep your head up Derek and please continue your great work.
I really appreciate your post and you explain each and every point very well.Thanks for sharing this information. And I’ll love to read your next post too.
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