A Look Back, and Moving Forward: The Future of Marathon Investigation

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On the evening of July 4th, like most, I was enjoying time with my family. Shortly before the fireworks were set to commence, I checked my phone and saw a post on letsrun.com that Frank had died. Shortly after seeing that post, the emails started to come in, and I knew it was true. The rest of that night was a blur as I tried to process what had happened.

I felt it was most appropriate if I remained mostly silent for a period of time, both to allow Frank’s family and friends the time and space that they needed, and to be able to rationally gather my thoughts and decide on how I, and Marathon Investigation would go forward.

I will address my process as it relates to Meza, I will address the criticisms, and I will address the future of Marathon Investigation.

Background

The first email I ever received regarding Frank was in January of 2017. The emailer referenced Frank’s CIM disqualifications and noted some other performances that seemed suspicious. Later in 2017, I heard from a race official, who was also suspicious of Frank’s results. I did some digging, and while I also was suspicious of Frank’s times, I didn’t have anything that I felt was actionable.

I had looked at his results through 2017 and 2018, but didn’t find any evidence that I could present to any races to advocate for a disqualification. After Frank’s 2019 LA Marathon finish, suspicions were made public on letsrun.com. In the past, letsrun has gained notoriety for outing Kip Littton, Rob Young, and Mike Rossi. It was within the Mike Rossi thread where the idea for Marathon Investigation was hatched.

I saw the thread and responded on March 27th.

The letsrun thread had caught the attention of Amby Burfoot. Amby had emailed me about a month later regarding his own look into Frank’s results. At the time, he decided not to write his own piece. Later, he would write about his investigation.

I had spent some time off and on looking back at everything I had. But, it wasn’t until the first photo of Frank on the side of the course was uncovered by a letsrun poster that I felt there was enough to move forward.

My next post on that thread was on May 22nd, 42 pages and almost two months after my first post.

I wrote my first article, 6 days later on May 28th.

The Marathon Investigation Articles

I wrote 8 articles about Frank Meza. The main purpose of each article was to present significant new information, or to respond to comments by Frank or those in Frank’s camp who were questioning the information that I published.

  • May 28th – Initial article focusing on 2019 LA Marathon
  • May 29th – Article focusing on Phoenix. The video that was the focus of the article was uncovered by a M.I. reader. I was unaware of the video when I published the initial article.
  • June 3rd – Reported LA Marathon statement that they would not DQ Frank unless more information came to light. 2nd sequence of photos presented.
  • June 7th – An article was published the previous day by Canadian Running. Frank spoke to the magazine. I defended the evidence that I presented. Additional evidence was presented.
  • June 25th – The LA Times had reported that disqualification was imminent. I felt obligated to defend my investigation as coaches, and even the Deputy District Attorney questioned the evidence.
  • July 1st – Reported that LA Disqualified Meza. Additional evidence was presented relating to other races.
  • July 3rd – Published evidence regarding prior year’s LA Marathon results. After I had written the article, the photo that purported to show Frank on a bike at The 2014 SF Marathon was uncovered. I added a section relating to that photo.
  • July 4th – After some had questioned the identity of the bike rider, I analyzed the photo further.

Also, my work was being called into question. It was being called into question to an audience that was much larger than mine. The Deputy LA District Attorney, a friend of Frank’s, publicly questioned the evidence and claimed that accusations were false and referred to the “libel” posted by internet trolls. Frank and others had also talked of obtaining legal counsel, . At the time, I felt forced to defend my articles and conclusions. I felt compelled to defend the evidence and present any additional evidence to remove any possible doubt.

What got lost by posting the evidence across multiple articles was the scope of the story. The story of Frank Meza covers many races over many years. Many casual readers do not realize that this story began well before The 2019 LA Marathon.

Some have wondered why the articles are still published.

It would be unethical to delete them. It would also be assumed that the articles were removed because they were inaccurate or seen as an admission that I did something wrong.

To erase history, would be to ignore it. I have left the articles, the Facebook posts, the tweets and the responses.

I am not a journalist, and have never claimed to be one. But I do try to act ethically in my writing. In the immediate aftermath, I reached out to journalists and other professionals that I respect. I researched policies on taking down articles. The standard policy is to never remove articles unless there is an inaccuracy, or if leaving an article up would put someone at risk of immediate harm.

Going Viral

The story hit the mainstream media and went viral beginning on July 2nd. The story was covered on Inside Edition, Good Morning America, The Dan Patrick show, and many mainstream websites, newspapers, and local TV. A story was planned for The ABC Nightly News, but it never aired.

The national coverage dwarfed any attention generated by my stories as illustrated by the chart above from Google Trends.

Google Trends

The chart shows the popularity of the search term ‘Frank Meza. The chart begins with my first article and ends on July 3rd. The chart shows the popularity of the search term relative to the highest point over the chosen time frame.

I did not reach out to any media outlets to try to further promote the story. The LA Times reached out to me on June 10th. They were first made aware of the story by a letsrun.com reader. I never actively promote my stories beyond sometimes sharing my posts to other running groups on Facebook. I did grant two interviews after Meza’s disqualification, one with ABC News and one with Inside Edition. ABC News never aired the story, although clips were aired on local news and Good Morning America (I was not included in the GMA story).

I point all this out as a point of reference. While many of the media stories after Frank’s death focused on claims of bullying, and my ‘accusations’,  what seems to be lost is that Frank took his life just days after the disqualification was public and the story went viral.

Bullying Claims

Meza’s family says that he was harassed and bullied. They say that they knew that this was taking a toll on Frank.

I feel that the reporting of his disqualifications and course cutting is being characterized in the same way as online trolling, contacting employers, or leaving negative reviews on Vitals.com

One argument is that Marathon Investigation has created this community of bullies. I have always spoken out loudly and consistently against personal harassment. No one is allowed to post employment information, personal Facebook pages, or even advocate contacting sponsors.

Marathon Investigation articles get shared across Facebook. The comments on those other pages are out of my control.

Outside Magazine wrote an article, Frank Meza’s Death and the Running Internet Mob.

I strive to be fair and complete in my reporting. I don’t embellish or sensationalize. I didn’t show up at Frank’s door. Writing factual articles is not harassment or cyber bullying by even the most liberal of definitions.

There will always be people that go too far in their reactions. I have strict rules on my pages, and will have stricter rules going forward. Speaking out and criticizing runners for cheating is not harassment or bullying. I think those that cross into harassment and bullying are a very small percentage of the community, and not accurately characterized as a mob. Those that cross the line are not welcome to comment on my pages. I will address the policies on my pages below.

Legally, as outlined in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, I am not responsible for what users post in the comments of my articles. But I strive to do better than that, and will continue to do everything possible to make sure the discussion remains respectful. It should be noted that I do not delete criticism of Marathon Investigation.

The Future of Marathon Investigation

Integrity Matters. It matters as much now as it did on July 3rd. The tragic story of Frank Meza does not change that. Marathon Investigation is not shutting down. I believe that my reporting on Frank Meza was appropriate. I’ve spoken to journalists that I respect, and they agree. That said, there are some changes that will be instituted.

Social Media

  • Zero Tolerance Policy – Rules are already in place against posting personal information, posting employer’s information, or advocating any contact against individuals. Users that are found to violate those rules will be banned. Personal attacks will be forbidden.
  • I will no longer share my own articles outside of The Marathon Investigation platforms.
  • I will not participate in any ‘cheater threads’. I will not share information or publicly enlist others to do their own sleuthing. This is not a criticism of letsrun or any other forum. While the ‘crowdsourcing’ of investigations on letsrun has turned up information that may have never been found otherwise, many lines of investigation on these forums are dead ends, and it is impossible to ensure that all comments are made responsibly.

Articles

  • I had previously made the decision to step away from writing about individual bandits. All rules should be followed, but I will limit my focus to those infractions that clearly and directly affect the results. I will focus on ‘cheating’ and leave it for the races to deal with ‘stealing’. I may write general stories on banditing as there are many reasons why it should not be tolerated.
  • With developing stories, I will do everything possible to limit the number of articles. When appropriate, I will try to let the ‘dust settle’ if it appears that more information is likely to surface.
  • I will continue to make every effort to work with races prior to publishing articles. While I never ask readers to contact marathons directly, it definitely happens when I publish my opinions that a runner should be DQ’d. I will always contact the race and give them time to respond or comment prior to publishing articles on specific runners.

A Personal Message

Let me preface this by saying that what I have gone through in the aftermath of Frank’s death in no way compares to what his family and friends have and continue to go through. However, I am not exaggerating when I say that the day of Frank’s suicide and the weeks following were the worst days of my life.

I feel intense and, at times overwhelming, guilt and sadness. Intellectually, I know that I only wrote the truth, and that this story was newsworthy. While we may never know for certain how or why Frank made that tragic decision July 4th, I have learned in the days since that this is not a simple answer. No single person or event is responsible for such a decision.

Fortunately, I have family that quickly recognized the pain I was in, and they were there to offer support. I strongly encourage anyone that is struggling with trauma, loss, or depression to seek help from family, friends, or a professional.

In a future article I will write about the media’s reporting of this tragedy and the public response.

84 COMMENTS

  1. Spot on and well written, Derek. One can equally state that you did absolutely nothing wrong, and offer heartfelt sympathy and condolences to Frank Meza’s family. Keep doing what you’re doing.

  2. It’s tragic that Frank Meza took his life, but you are not responsible. If Meza disagreed with the conclusions, he was free to present evidence why he didn’t cheat.

    In this era where abject lying is tolerated from the president of the USA, it’s good to see someone work for integrity in the world of running. Keep up the good work, Derek.

  3. Thanks, Derek. I don’t know if I qualify as a critic, but I’ve written comments urging you to think of ways to act better in the future. What you’ve written above is all I could hope for. Thanks so much, and best wishes in the future.

  4. Hi Derek, I have been reading your work for quite a while. On question I have struggled with since Frank’s death. Is your work to expose a person that cheated in a marathon or serial cheaters? In retrospect, would it have been enough to show the result in the 2018 LA Marathon as invalid and leave it at that?

    I am glad you addressed the issues you faced in the weeks after his death.

  5. I get MI was a work in progress. Some of your first stories were getting away from what I thought you objective was; catching cheaters. Who cares if a bandit who finished a half in 2 hr 45 mins or a full in 6 hours ran with a bib they bought online. But, I also know you’re trying to sell MI to races and writing stories like that may help a race director hire you.

    After the first story about Meza, there was no doubt in my mind he cheater. But, did you need to write eight stories? Combine a few of them. Who cares if it is a long story. Yesterday I read the ESPN story about the former Olympian, now track coach, who was molesting runners he was coaching. It was long as hell. But, so what! I think writing eight stories gave snowflakes the impression you were bullying Meza.

    • The problem was, he didn’t have all the facts at once to write one long article. As more people was checking out the photos from marathon, new evidence popped up later, like the one where he rode a bike in the SF marathon.

    • By the same token, the ESPN writers could have limited the piece to the numerous molestations at the summer camp. However, that wouldn’t have captured the degree and magnitude of 41 molestations over decades. Dr. Meza’s case is much different with the knowledge that his cheating was so systematic. Stopping after one article about one marathon would have been grossly misleading at best.

    • It makes sense to me to expose someone that cheated others out of a world record, age-group record, course record, or entry to Boston, because it rights a wrong by helping the victim(s).

      However, its a victimless “crime” to expose a person who only (1) claims on Facebook to have run a race they didn’t run, (2) only runs across the finish line at the end of a race to get the medal they paid for, or (3) buys or sells a bib online, because the Race Director maintains a no refund/ no transfer policy in hopes of selling more bibs is just wrong. (A person who buys a bib can write their real information on the back or carry ID in case they run into a medical situation.)

    • Read his article again. He talks about how he was being challenged by the LA District Attorney. His work and conclusions were being openly challenged. The LA D.A. even alluded to libel. At that point, Derek may not have felt he had any other choice but to solidify his facts and the evidence. Who among us, put in Derek’s shoes at that point, with a District Attorney getting involved, wouldn’t have reacted the exact same way? I’m willing to bet more than 85% of us would have.

  6. All this tragedy sucks, but I appreciate what you are doing Derek. If you are not going to post your articles on social media, how can one subscribe to your website posts? I don’t see a way to do this…

  7. You’ve always emphasized the need to demonstrate sound ethics in the course of investigating unethical behavior (otherwise, why even bother?) and in my opinion you’ve managed to uphold this stance and avoid the “piling on” that others invariably favor after reading your stuff.

    That said, since you’re human, you would surely be questioning your role in this even if Frank had been a thoroughly bad person all around. I suspect — or at least hope — that in your private agonies, you have concluded that given all of the unusual elements in this incredibly protracted story, things were probably going to wind up ending more or less as they did. Obviously a lot of people were at a loss as to handle overtly pathological “sporting” behavior; I can understand how they were paralyzed. Until you’ve have dealt with someone who frames completely irrational behavior and excuses as entirely normal and expect others to simply accept this, it’s hard to prepare for, and that’s even when the person in question has no real power in life.

    P.S. The whole idea that someone could claim to be bullied when purposefully seeking out the source of the “bullying” is required to even know about it is goofy. There is a difference between e-mailing someone to hector him or otherwise making intentional contact and writing untoward things on a website.

    I have always been a little fascinated by the inevitable interplay between your work and the twin cesspools of social media and Letsrun.com. There are some bright and honorable people there, but since they have no apparent intention of not operating the message as a free-for-all, you probably would have been better off from the start not even interacting with the board. I understand why some people choose the anon route, but they ought to at least require registration. The fact that this clearly “works” everywhere else, yet is consistently rejected by those guys, establishes that their motivations transcend trying to be good shepherds of the sport. When you have no idea who your interlocutors even are, or at least whether the “people” you’re talking to actually represent disparate individuals or sock-puppets, it’s a waste of time.

    Anyway, I agree that you should continue, but in terms of how your stuff gets picked up, as hard as it will probably be, I’d let that happen organically. You’ve seen what happens otherwise and I don’t think, given the subject matter, that you would ever be the moderator of anything resembling a placid and productive online community. I bet you would have two “extra” hours a day to yourself if you avoided LRC and Facebook alone during heavy-duty investigations.

    This is just some weird shit, eh? Glad you’ve been able to reach some conclusions in the last four weeks. For what it’s worth, I don’t know a single sober human being who would blame you for any of this. People break easily, and when they do it enough and flagrantly enough and wind up pursuing bizarre agendas like Frank did, someone is going to make a note of it. Messengers like you will always get sniped at.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful response. One comment was confusing.

      Generally, I’ve always let my stuff get picked up organically. The most I would do is share articles to some other Facebook Groups. Generally though, stuff would get shared without me doing so.

      I have never pushed my articles on the media.

      I specifically wrote that I would no longer share articles outside of my own platforms.

      And honestly, I can’t envision any scenarios where I’d grant interviews on any specific person.

  8. I appreciate all you do Derek, and I’m glad that MI will continue. Frank’s suicide is very sad, but you had nothing to do with it. It makes me mad that people tried to lay that blame on you. You’re a good man.

  9. Thanks for all you do Derek. You have nothing to apologize for. A lot of people that weighed in over recent weeks did so ignorantly. You never opine on the character of the individual, you simply present data and objective evidence. I feel you were unfairly lumped in with a lot of the garbage at letsrun. I hope you back to it sooner rather than later.

  10. Frank made a decision, a very sad an unfortunate one, but HE made it and is responsible for his actions. You reported professionally and with complete transparency. I never felt with this story, or any other story, that you had a preconceived bias or reporting style that ridiculed or derided anyone. When I read your posts I always feel that you have done your homework and research and very much respect that effort and writing style. I am happy to hear your mission will continue.

  11. Ugh. I am so disgusted by this whole situation. This whole charade is outrageous, with Frank perpetuating what the worst amount of cheating at a running race that we’ve ever see. There are no winners here. Everyone is a loser.

    1. Frank, who would rather give his lie than bear confronting the truth.
    2. Frank’s family, who now have to live without a grandfather, a father, and a husband.
    3. Frank’s family, friends, and neighbors, who feel obligated to continue an outrageous lie to preserve his legacy.
    4. Derek, who I think many of us who aren’t affiliated with Frank, would say that he mostly writes articles in a fair way and keeps the editorials out of it, is faced (perhaps unfairly) with a death on his conscience.
    5. His critics, including me, who wanted to see him accountable for these series of lies and now feel horrible about the situation. His death is the last thing we would have wanted to see happen.
    6. The running community as a whole, which now has some tainted age-group records and results that should not stand but will never reversed.

    Running and the sport in general has always been a source of positivity in my life and my running friends’ lives, from meeting new people, to getting more fit/healthy, and achieving goals.

    At this point there is nothing that could make this situation better, and I wish that weren’t the case.

  12. Derek, the Frank story is a sad one, and the ending is one that you had no part in writing. It pains me to see you feel the need to change anything. You were not at fault.

  13. Remember Derek, you didnt make him do it. Second, how does anyone know what caused him to do it? 3rd, he liked the fame and he got caught. Some would and could speculate that he had mental health issues way before he got caught and probably did while he was cheating. Finally, cheaters, do the right thing, and you won’t have to worry about it later.

  14. Shortly after your first story about Frank’s cheating, I posted a note directly to Frank on LetsRun on June 16th. It read:

    “Frank… a word of advice…

    So far, this story has been limited to this forum and Marathon Investigation, but it’s only a matter of time until there’s a slow news day and it hits the major media. Previous course-cutter threads here have lasted for two years or more. This is not going away. You need to nip this in the bud right now before it gets any worse.

    I’d suggest you call Derek and tell all. The cover-up is always worse than the action. Get it all out. Don’t make excuses.”

    Surely he saw this post or his friends saw it. He had ample opportunity to make this all go away and get on with his life. Instead, he chose an irresponsible and selfish action… selfish in that the took his grandchildren’s grandfather away from them. They will never get to know their grandfather. This was far worse than his cheating on marathons. This was… wrong on a much, much higher level.

  15. Derek: Thanks for this incredibly honest account that must have been difficult to write, sadly your enemies (who from the kind of things they say seem to be cheats who object to people calling out cheating) have been able to greatly enjoy the circumstances of the last month because let us be clear they do not care a jot about what happened to Dr Meza.
    To any fair, balanced person, what you have done on this website has been above reproach, you have been scrupulously fair, it really demonstrates the warped logic of your critics that they manage to perform the mental gymnastics of being able to say that cheats should not be exposed but people who break the rules and conventions of society in other ways should be held accountable as if a special, protected category of race cheat exists.
    Please carry on your excellent work.

  16. I think you are missing the biggest point/lesson. From the bottom of your July 3rd article:

    “As long as Frank continues to claim that he has been unjustly disqualified, and that he has never cut a course (or rode a bike along a course), I feel it is necessary to present all the evidence that is available.”

    You made it pretty clear that you weren’t going to quit until Frank admitted that he cheated. This may have started out as “I need to protect the integrity of running (and apparent sanctity of AG records),” but it obviously morphed into a pissing match between you (and the larger letsrun community) and Frank.

    You had proved your point. My guess is that Frank’s marathon running days were over (witness his claim of a newly discovered heart condition). Unfortunately, that wasn’t good enough and apparently you guys weren’t going to quit until Frank admitted he was a fraud.

    May I suggest that next time this happens, you simply let the evidence speak for itself. Trying to force Frank to admit he was a fraud was simply piling on /bullying. A little kindness / sympathy never hurt anyone.

    That being said, I don’t think you’re to blame. I think the national news media catching on was the last straw for Frank. And Frank was obviously the one ultimately responsible.

    • I agree with this wholeheartedly. You are not at fault but this is the crux of the issue. And place where we could all learn and grow.

    • As long as Dr. Metz claimed that he was unjustly disqualified, whether he cheated remained a debate. There is nothing wrong with continuing to present evidence of wrongdoing if the underlying question remains unresolved. Only Derek knows whether he had personal animus towards Dr. Metz. If he did, I certainly didn’t see it in his writing. It seems to me that Derek goes to great lengths to be objective but his desire to be thorough perhaps turns some people off. I would say the biggest point/lesson of this situation is not sourced in the forum that provides information; rather, it is that people interpret writing differently. You suggest kindness/sympathy toward Dr. Metz, which is noble. Others suggest accountability for reprehensible behavior. I am in the latter camp because his death should not create fault in others, particularly a messenger.

    • Are you suggesting the national media is to blame? Surely, as sad as it is, there is only one person to blame. You enter public events, cheat and accept the accolades, the messenger here is not the problem.

  17. You provide valuable information for races to help them determine if a participant(s) should be disqualified due to some infraction of the rules – in this case not running the full race route. But the main problem I see is with your terminology, calling someone a cheater. By using that word you are going beyond just an investigator and becoming the judge and jury. In our sport we have rules and protocols to deal with violation of the rules which includes the ability for an athlete to appeal to the organizers of the race. You do reach out to the various race and suggest that the participant be disqualified…good! But I suggest you refrain from calling anyone a cheater.
    After 40+ years of helping to organize races all around the world, I have dealt with similar situations where a participant needed to be disqualified but I would never use the words cheater, cheating, etc. All I would say is that “x” runner was disqualified for a specific rule violation.
    In one case, a high ranking police officer did not run the entire marathon course. I gathered all of the information and I had a solid case to prove it. I quietly informed him that he was being disqualified and removed him from the results. The next day, reporters from around the country tried to get me to say he cheater which I refused to do. Once that word is used the floodgates are opened and there is no return.

    • This PC terminology is ridiculous to me. Meza didn’t simply cheat…he was a serial cheater and liar, and the evidence of him on a bicycle did nothing other than suggest how he cheated. Derek is not some hack with a website… if he calls somebody a cheater than that’s what happened. Frank committed suicide because he got caught, which is his right. Derek is certainly at least partially responsible for his death, but being responsible just means you are related to it happening…one could for instance be responsible for saving the world. I was responsible for my cat’s death when I had him euthanized, and it certainly was painful as well, but I was no more wrong in doing it than what Derek did.

      For Derek, this will always live with him, and I am happy to see that he can live with it, because I enjoy his work. For the rest of us, it’s fine to have some empathy or pity for Frank’s family, but that currency might be better spent feeling empathy for all of the *innocent* people that are being killed or having family killed quite regularly.

    • cheat·er
      /ˈCHēdər/
      Learn to pronounce
      nounNORTH AMERICAN
      1.
      a person who acts dishonestly in order to gain an advantage.

      It fits.

  18. One thing that I think needs to be said:. Derek has always offered people the opportunity to come clean, explain their side of things, etc. With Maude Gorman for instance. Cheating in a race is not the worst thing a person can do, and anyone who can own up to their mistakes should be applauded.

    When someone takes their own life, no one else is to blame. Least of all someone who wrote honest articles about these issues for the benefit of the running community.

  19. Ethics above pathological liars and cheats, bravo, cannot ask for anything more than righteous reporting. Thanks for all your good work.

  20. I have sympathy for Dr. Meza’s family just like everyone else. I have sympathy for Dr. Meza as a person with clear mental problems. However, I feel that Derek has been unfairly victimized by Dr. Meza choosing to end his own life. Had Dr. Meza not committed suicide, Derek is not having to carry falsely-directed guilt and subsequently provide soothing modifications to a process that simply identifies cheating to a limited audience of those interested in clean competition. For those that are using this tragic circumstance to blame an innocent journalist, I ask what on earth are you defending? Dr. Meza might have been the greatest guy in other aspects of his life, but his marathoning-related conduct was nothing short of reprehensible in every aspect. Dr. Meza’s self-harm shouldn’t obscure the underlying reality of his rampant cheating, so we are morally obligated to reject notions that he has been victimized by anyone on this site.

  21. Regarding Phaedrus’ comment: If Dr. Meza was only suspected of cheating in one or two races, I agree that the paragraph you highlight would seem to indicate that MI was “piling on” Dr. Meza until he admitted to cheating. However, Dr. Meza’s questionable results spanned over 10 years. If additional evidence came to light in other races, I think it is only fair that such evidence be presented in light of the continued protestation of innocence and allegations of libel against MI.

    • This question doesn’t stand. It never did. A man cheated in order to break a world record. He was caught- at first only circumstancially, and then irrefutiably (photographed on a bike during a race). Trying to expose his deception is completely valid. His decision to take his life was tragic and no doubt devastating to his loved ones, but was rooted in mental health issues we will never fully understand.

    • David, I don’t think it’s wise to try to make policies or moral/ethical judgments based on one tragedy. Of course, his suicide was tragic and has caused a lot of pain to his family/friends. But I don’t think that it means that asking hard questions, exposing cheaters/frauds, trying to right wrongs should not be done. Even one victim of drunk driving is tragic–and even more so if, say, the mother of the victim commits suicide out of grief. But should we ban cars in order to prevent such a tragedy? Is the convenience of automobiles worth such tragedy? What about cheating on tests: school exams, driver’s license exams, medical school/law school exams, air traffic controller exams, etc. Should we just not expose any cheaters—even a pattern or system or history of cheating—because it could lead to suicide?

      I suppose people can have honest disagreements on these types of questions. For me, what Derek does is valuable to the running community, and those who cheat and publicly proclaim their accomplishments should be exposed. What they do when they are exposed is not Derek’s responsibility. Of course, there are limits to what should be exposed. For example, I think we’d all agree that hounding a little kid and telling everyone in the neighborhood that his lemonade stand doesn’t use fresh lemons as advertised would not be cool, would not be worth the pain felt by the kid. But I don’t think the case of Derek/Frank is even remotely similar.

    • David, Your implication that journalists should censor the truth because someone might get their feelings hurt, or elicit any other outcome, including suicide, would mean the end of journalism. Your question is willfully specious. Notwithstanding the false premise that one could predict the outcome of ones reporting, a more honest (and interesting) question would be: Are the principles of justice and truthfulness in our society at large worth the price of one man’s life? Millions have died to protect those principles throughout history, so the answer, though tragic at times, is a resounding “yes”. Now you may not live a life according to principles, but some of us do. Another of those principles is “personal responsibility”. Had Frank Meza taken any, he would still be alive today.

  22. “…overwhelming guilt and sadness…” is all part of grief from a loss. I hope you recognize you are experiencing grief (you don’t have to know the person to go through the stages) and to let them happen. Pushing them aside will only prolong the grief and healing process. My thoughts and prayers that you heal and find peace in the coming year.

  23. It’s certainly a tragedy, but it was brought on by the runner himself. As a pretty decent age group runner (4th at Boston, 1st at LA, Portland, Marine Corps, Philadelphia and many smaller marathons and shorter races) I can’t understand the need to cheat to qualify for Boston or win an age group. There’s really not that much glory involved. I’ve been the victim of cheating 5 times in the 15 years since I turned 50, and managed to right the wrongs each time through my own investigation and persistence. What you do, Derek, will help make our sport better, and you should continue to pursue your investigations. Keep up the fight.

  24. While I agree it would be wrong to delete or erase the articles, the structure of your website compounds the issue of too-frequent posting. You always highlight the most recent story in the largest picture, then the next 2 most recent to its right, then the 4th one below it, and the next couple to the right of that.

    Compound that with posting about nothing but Frank (with one exception) for 8 posts and your entire site front page was filled with Frank Meza.

    And while you made one comment saying you’d stop talking about it, and that became the most recent one, the remaining 7 or so “highlight” spots were filled with Frank. Even now you’ve only displaced the top 3 spots, and Frank’s name is still plastered all over your page.

    While not deleting or erasing, you certainly could move the articles to a content section where they are available but don’t seem to comprise the entire purpose of your blog. Or, just write about something else until his name scrolls off, since it’s damn hard to find stuff on this site that’s not highlighted.

  25. Your response is thoughtful and reflects the sadness many of us felt upon learning about Dr Meza’s death.

    You are not responsible for his decision to end his life. No one knows what’s in the heart and mind of another. What is clear is he likely felt pressure to disclose the truth, which was closing in around him. Racing was his identity, now exposed to be a fraud. I agree 100% with the new direction of this website. Report your findings and move on. Some stories will go viral; you have no control over that aspect of “news.”

    All I can add is that I encourage you to police the commentary. Some fans are brutal in expressing opinions. Some commentary may be more damaging to one’s psyche than the story itself. There’s nothing wrong with “hiding” or removing damaging or abusive posts by fans. In a more global sense, I’m not sure you need commentary. Most stories you read online do not allow comments for this reason. Just a thought.

    Thank you, and I look forward to the new direction of MI. I do think you have a place in cleaning up the sport I love.

  26. “I am not a journalist…” You’ve got that right.

    At any rate, but for your series of reports, would Frank have committed suicide?

    • Ben, I don’t know if you’re seriously asking that question–meaning, do you really want to find the answer to the question–but I think that’s an unanswerable, unhelpful question. If you truly want to know why Frank committed suicide, I think you also have to ask “If his friends/family had held him more accountable, if they had communicated clearly that even though he had been caught as a cheater, they were going to stand by him and get him through the tough times, would Frank have committed suicide?” Did they? Should they have? If they didn’t, should they be at all accountable? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but to me, they’re as valid–perhaps even more valid–than your question to Derek. Or how about this one: “If Frank had not been a serial cheater, if he had not kept denying that he had cheated, if he had not loved the notoriety that came from “fast” times, if he had not built a false persona built on fake accomplishments, would he have committed suicide?” Again, I don’t claim to know the answers, but surely, they are worth asking, rather than believing that perhaps Derek is the bad guy here.

    • Also, Ben, scoffing at Derek for not being a journalist is not the insult that you think it is. It is very easy to find famous, rich, powerful, experienced, award-winning journalists who can learn a lot from Derek about humility, fairness, objectivity, and truthfulness.

  27. I am glad you are sticking with it. I do believe though that you are a freelance investigative journalist.
    The negativity and heat comes with the position. Good Luck.

  28. My favorite part of this article

    “I strongly encourage anyone that is struggling with trauma, loss, or depression to seek help from family, friends, or a professional”

    Help WILL be there! As someone that’s battled these monsters before, this couldn’t be more true.

    We look forward to more articles in the future Derek.

  29. “In a future article I will write about the media’s reporting of this tragedy and the public response.”
    Wait, why? You’ve responded. Isn’t it time to move on now? What else could possibly be said about the case at this point?

    • I haven’t addressed those that capitalized on this situation to try to get some sort of ‘revenge’ or the messages I’ve received. It will be more of a general article, not at all focused on Frank, but on the media coverage after his death and the reaction.

    • Frank saw himself riding a bike at SF 2014, then goes for a run and jumps off a bridge. The collective “us” had proven he is a cheater. Would it have been different if we had taken this conclusive “evidence” to him, and begged him to give it up. Or had “we” gone too far already, letting the “story” blow up. “Reporters” showing up at his home, others laughing at his cheating on a popular morning tv show. There is much that can be said. Why does someone live a lie for at least 12 years. Did he just get stuck in a lie. Did he underestimate the potential downside, if exposed. Or did he fear it all along. Certainly with what happened at CIM, Frank should have been watched much more at LAM, LB and SC from years back. He could have been discreetly caught in the act. Quietly told “no more!”. Report it to USATF. Ban him from further “racing” at USATF sanctioned events. Let him run untimed. Again, do everything much more discreetly. His “racing” should have been dealt with long ago. He was running higher and higher AG times. His downfall was besting the record time of Ed Whitlock and beating Gene Dykes faster time as the same time. Record eligible or not. After Phoenix and then LAM, Frank was most likely going to get exposed, and in fact did thanks to my LM post. I deeply regret having started the 2 posts touting the “successes” of Frank’s Phoenix and LAM races. I too deeply regret many of the insensitive posts I made, as “we” sought to find the truth about Frank cheating or not. Especially once I crossed over to the side of the “accusers”. Frank’s denials fed fuel into the fire, for sure. A lot of focus has been put on lessons that people on runners blogs should learn. (hopefully) But, also hopefully another lesson is being learned too. Worse case, one lie or dishonest act can cost you everything.

  30. Derek, would it be possible for you to get a count of the number of cheating applicants (say x) to Boston that you were able to get DQ’ed, and then to count (and maybe identify) the last x accepted qualifiers to the Boston Marathon? And if you can do that see if you can do a Q&A with one or some of them and post it on this website?

    For example, thanks to your detective work, Joe Ogata, previously placed 4th in LA Marathon 2019 M70-74, was able to correctly be included in the top 3 for his age gender group. It would be very rewarding and a feel-good story for us to see a Q&A interview with him – his training regimen, his running history, etc. Just to give him and everyone else a sense of redemption for him previously being cheated out of a podium finish. And these victims of race cheats will probably jump at the chance to publicly thank you for what you do.

    Something like this would demonstrate the benefit of your investigation in a very tangible way, and it’s a feel-good story that we all need especially in these recent times when we’re all (both critics and supporters alike) saddened by Frank’s passing.

    You could potentially do all your investigation under the covers and not reveal anybody you got DQ’ed, and only post stories of people you interviewed about how they were able get what they actually earned.

    • Meanwhile, Rosie died last month. She also stuck to her story and didn’t commit suicide.

      There may be correlation, but we have no data that shows causation.

      Derek, thank you for this. I second the recommendation to experience your grief, as well as to seek out resources to help you grieve.

      I’m just coming out of 3 years of intense grief because my husband of 25 years and one of his mistresses were urging me to kill myself. They continued to do so after I told him he couldn’t live here any longer.

      Grieve, grieve harder.

      And keep on being great.

    • I suspect that any joy that Joe Ogata got out of being moved up to 3rd place in late June was quickly squashed on 4 July. Doubt he’d want to be interviewed.

  31. Suicide is a scary to those left behind. In the end, it is a lack of control. We think we could have done more – could have seen the signs. But that is hubris. We really can’t know – can’t “save” – others. We can be there – help when we can – but in the end, it is their choice. We all want to believe there is a reason, something we could fix, something we could control. And when we realize that we really don’t control – and can never control – our world becomes … unstable. Unlike so many trolls, your posts were always well researched and base upon the evidence. Derek – I understand the feeling of guilt. But that is you judging you which only applies if you are God. (BTW, I’m pretty sure your not.) You don’t have that kind of power. He made his choices. Nobody is the worst thing (or the best thing) they’ve done. And cheating at a marathon kinda sucks, but there are far bigger sins. To cheat at marathons – and then to take your life when outed – reveals far deeper issues of self worth. Grieve – regret the decision he made. But keep true to yourself.

  32. I don’t think Frank’s suicide was your fault. I do, however, think the style of reporting you do lends itself to the online pile on, because you can never know exactly who is receiving your words with ill intent. Cheating a race is bad and those cheaters deserve to be disqualified, if only for the purity of the sport. But you could conduct and investigation and report your findings to various races *without* doing it publicly, if you so chose. That is my only concern here. Our actions, all of us, have consequences, whether intended or otherwise. When it comes down to it, Frank made a decision. I just know that I wouldn’t want to have ANYTHING to do with that decision. I feel for you, I hope your new guidelines help create the kind of community and results that you desire.

    • One of the purposes this site fulfills is deterring others from cheating.

      Derek, seemingly, contacts everyone he is about to expose and asks for their side of the story. When they deny what is self evident to the rest of us based on the evidence it becomes that public problem. he’s run stories before where people anonymously explain what happened and why they did the things they did. Those are also valuable deterrents.

  33. David, Your implication that journalists should censor the truth because someone might get their feelings hurt, or elicit any other outcome, including suicide, would mean the end of journalism. Your question is willfully specious. Notwithstanding the false premise that one could predict the outcome of ones reporting, a more honest (and interesting) question would be: Are the principles of justice and truthfulness in our society at large worth the price of one man’s life? Millions have died to protect those principles throughout history, so the answer, though tragic at times, is a resounding “yes”. Now you may not live a life according to principles, but some of us do. Another of those principles is “personal responsibility”. Had Frank Meza taken any, he would still be alive today.

  34. Derek, I appreciate what you have written and have read all related articles. You did nothing wrong. This was a Frank problem. I think it’s wrong this became your problem. Frank and his family need to own this. The buck must stop there. Let’s stop trying when someone does someone wrong find someone else to blame.

  35. Guilt and shame tend to be used interchangeably when they are very different. Guilt is feeling sorry for something. It’s standing in the truth of what was brought to light of something you did wrong and how you respond to what happened, what you did and until you do that and take ownership of the mistake, you are going to live in shame. Shame has power. It has the power the silence you and to make you feel unworthy. HOW we respond to determines where we “live”. Derek, it’s not the articles you wrote but how Frank responded and he and only he had the control to how he was going to respond to what was the light of the truth. He didn’t even have to say he was sorry or even apologize but before you wrote that first article, he had a choice to make when he was contacted. Was he going to take that feeling of guilt and say “you’re right, I didn’t run the race” and it would have ended there. You’ve often said if it was admitted, the article wouldn’t have been written and I don’t think it would have gone anywhere had he done that. Frank chose his path and he chose the path of shame and he chose to let it have power over him vs having power over it. Your articles always stated just the facts and you aren’t to blame.

    I’m glad this site will continue. Until a way is found to thwart cheating or until all Race Directors take it seriously, it will be a needed voice to keep our sport clean

  36. Derek, you actually were the 4th post on LR. You posted as MI. (5-25) Please let me know why you moderated my only post to this article…and then apparently did not include it. I included my email by the asterick, and have received no communication as to why.

    • I’ve never posted on letsrun as “MI”. That post was from an unregistered user, and was not me. I only posted under ‘doubler’.

      Your post was approved.

  37. You have nothing to apologize. You wrote factual information. Many others contributed to the information. What Frank did was all his choice. He could have come clean and left at that but he chose a different path.

  38. Frank is a cheater who refused to face the consequences. MI exposed this and did nothing wrong. Franks death is on himself. It is sad, but we all must face the consequences of our actions. Frank wasn’t a one time cheat, he was a serial cheater. Of course, nobody wan’t to see him die for this, but that was his choice, nobody elses.

  39. Derek: Long time fan of MI here. You’ve done so much good work in exposing cheaters and making race results more fair. From my perspective, your contribution to the running/endurance community has been nothing but positive. It is really unfortunate that the story of one of your subjects ended in tragedy, but I’m happy to hear you’re still committed to your mission of giving honest athletes a fighting chance in a world where cheating sometimes seems to be perpetuated and rewarded through social media. Looking forward to reading more articles on your site. I’m hoping you can see the MI community supports you through this difficult time.

  40. This is almost certainly libel. You posted accusatory evidence as fact and did so knowing that your audience reacts to it poorly. You feel guilty because you know what you did was wrong. I hope Frank’s estate comes after you. You don’t help the sport when you say stuff like, “This is obviously cheating” when it isn’t obvious.

    Good luck in your future. I will never support someone who has so much influence and no oversight.

    • Where did I say “This is obviously cheating” relating to Frank? And, more importantly, if I did say that or write that, was the statement inaccurate?

    • You have to be a troll. It’s obvious that you know almost nothing about what Derek has done and how he does his work, yet you come and make an incendiary, evidence-less remarks as fact. Go away! Better yet, go and read Derek’s articles and read the many thoughtful comments from people who have followed MI.

    • Also it’ll be a bad day for the Meza estate if there is ever any lawsuit. LA Marathon was very diligent in their investigation before they DQ’ed Frank, and they did that to protect themselves in case there was ever a lawsuit.

      If the Meza estate doesn’t want any of the bullet proof evidence to come into the public, then the lawsuit is the last thing they’d want to pursue. LA Marathon will be subpoena’ed and provide storefront videos and images of Frank leaving the course and coming back to the course from a different spot. Not only will Frank be officially a cheater in three marathons, but also a marathon cheat in the court of law.

  41. The most depressing part of this whole “cheating discovery” story for me was finding out how many people condone cheating or consider it no big deal. That attitude is just poisonous to the sport. An example: Years ago when I ran a marathon in under three hours for the first time (2:59) a woman set the course record, for women, in the same race at 2:48. I still remember the photograph of her crossing the finish line holding hands with her pacer-husband, both wearing identical striped shorts and singlets, and looking like they had just taken a stroll around the block. I remember thinking “How did they do that?” (I had felt positively trashed when I had finished that race.) “They must be super-human!” Now looking back I wonder if they cut the course. I never would have had such an ignoble thought before I read all these posts on MI describing how commonplace and accepted cheating is. If indeed she did set the record–and I hope she did– that was a spectacular achievement and I was right to honor her for it. But now, for me, all these cheaters and their supporters have cast a shadow over what she did, and infused my memory of her with skepticism and doubt.

    People like Derek try so hard to keep the sport honest and fair and they are the people all of the cheaters and their supporters attack and blame. This is all so very depressing.

  42. In-depth story posted on-line from Los Angeles Magazine today on the Frank Meza story. A long read, very inclusive of much that happened. A must read…

  43. Well written. First I do not understand why people bully those who have been found cheating I understand people being upset but I think being caught cheating is punishment enough. As someone who takes the competitive nature of running very seriously, for both competitiveness within oneself as well as competition with others, I feel that being called out for cheating would be more than enough shame without any need for bullying. However, in the same vein I feel it is important to continue to call out those who cheat. It may seem small to them but to someone who has trained a long time and misses out on an award, age group or overall, it is a total disservice to the sport. Keep up the good work and hopefully we can all learn to be a little kinder and not harass those who have been caught. Let their shame be their punishment.

  44. Are you going to continue the Podcast? I liked that, please do! I was upset when I heard the news about Frank. I was thinking about you when I heard about Frank’s demise – as I followed the entire story. I couldn’t believe the temerity of the guy, especially after the bike photo discovery. I was able to piece together in my head his method of cheating and it totally made sense (if one’s aim was to beat the sensors). I’m sorry you had to answer to the slathering hoard of pitchfork waving reactionary idiots. The information was right there. I don’t understand why so many people trust TV News and get so worked up about something they could just read a little more about. Something that wasn’t emphasized much at all was JUST HOW MUCH FASTER Frank’s times were than others his age. STAGGERING to the point that there is NO WAY. That’s the part I don’t get. Why was there even a doubt. All those who lambasted you have since then found something else to be go on about. The news story was quickly replaced about 5 days later without much consideration for it’s accuracy. I think many people are angry at the world because they feel their lives lack significance. The feeling compels many to publish all their personal stuff on social media, and cheat in races for bragging rights. I’m a middle-of-the-pack 43 year old NYC male runner. I run in most the NYRR races. I’ve never run a Marathon, but I’m doing NYC this year. I have been injured 3 times and missed it. It means a lot to me, to do it right and well. There is great reward in the self-respect category, for those who DO NOT CHEAT. I wish that race organizers would focus in on the middle of the pack cheaters. Not because I want to see them punished in some hateful, arbitrary way, but I want racers to know that this act is something to be respected. The races could just have a big freaking sign at the beginning/middle/end and mention it after the national anthem. If it’s ‘no big deal’ to those who cheat, than being caught should also be ‘no big deal’ to them. Bullying is another issue, but humans will always do this. Mobs will always exist. I want to live in a time where I know, with all this tracking technology, that there is respect for people who value honesty and achievement. If there are special circumstances by which one should be allowed to cheat and get away with it, then we should stop having races all together. There is so much honor in run-racing. Having the rules enforced makes it more worthy of achievement.

  45. Keep up your good work. The San Antonio story is especially crucial to the integrity of World Records and legitimate race management. As a Texan I have always been skeptical of that particular race series and have done my best to steer others away, who hoped to check the state of Texas off their list. Too many excellent, legitimate and well-done marathons in our fair state to let a fellow runner risk having their race disqualified.

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