Very "neutral" article from Burfoot...for the most part.
I might describe his article as disappointing, surprisingly short, and extremely tepid.
A few quick observations:
1. Amby presents his reasons for not writing about Meza (until now), and then presents "the back story" -- that is, events that occurred prior to his decision not to pursue the Meza story further. Here are his reasons for not covering the story:
I chose to leave Meza alone because he seems a respected member of the Latin American medical community in L.A., because he has been a long-time high school coach, and because he was an early supporter of an early Latin American running club, Aztlan Athletics. I value these contributions.
I really hate to say this, but that strikes me as questionable journalism. I understand the importance of getting things right, especially when there is a possibility that an otherwise stellar reputation may be tarnished or even destroyed by sloppy, hyperbolic, or overzealous reporting. I also understand that third parties can suffer when the stature of an idol, role model, or doer of good deeds is undermined. But there can also be great social costs in choosing to let false (or extremely dubious) narratives about public figures go unchallenged, particularly where the truth may warrant reconsideration of fundamental characterological matters. At the very least, I would like to see a fuller explanation of Amby's decision, including his thoughts about whether threats and implausible defenses from third parties, perhaps suggesting efforts to cover up embarrassing truths, may have inclined him in one direction or the other. I would also like to see some discussion about how one can justify the extensive coverage given to cases involving certifiable kooks -- whose names are well-known, and who are known only for their kooky running claims -- while a case involving a seemingly substantial or significant member of society is unreported, underreported, or even suppressed.
As Amby notes, Frank Meza's reported marathon performances are unlikely to be recognized as "official" records, because they have not been on record-eligible courses. That's fine, and it may give USATF and IAAF an excuse to look the other way, but it does not, in my view, provide much additional support for a decision not to report on this case in more general-interest publications (including, for example, Runner's World), whose audiences are generally not sticklers for IAAF, USATF, or ARRS record-eligibility standards. The big story here, I believe, is that a prominent and highly honored member of the community, who has achieved considerable recognition for his running accomplishments as well as his accomplishments as a physician, mentor, and social activist, is being accused of engaging in a bizarre scheme of cheating, and there is apparently some reason to believe that a number of other individuals may have been aware or suspicious of his alleged conduct for a long time. That story touches on many issues that are far more important than ratification of performances under various standards of record-eligibility.
2. Amby's article provides some additional leads for further factual inquiry. For example, what do the other alleged participants in Frank Meza's "pretty fast 8-milers with the high school team" have to say about those training sessions? [Note: I just saw the post by a self-described former team member, who seems to deny Frank's claims about "pretty fast 8-milers."] And on what basis does a four-hour marathoner conclude that his training partner on two-hour runs is "a phenomenal runner" who has only gotten "better and better" since his 3:18 marathon some years ago?
3. It's a cop-out to suggest that the "best approach" for Frank Meza to prove his ability is to run another marathon or half-marathon with an observer. I don't believe that many knowledgeable observers expect that ever to happen. Nor would it be fair to Frank Meza or anyone else. Of course, future demonstrations of his running ability would be evidence of his past ability and, to a slightly lesser extent, his past running accomplishments. But the evidence, as it exists, is sufficient to evaluate the merits of the accusations, even if they may not resolve, to everyone's satisfaction, all questions about what has or has not occurred.