Helene Elliott from the LA Times finally responded to us regarding writing a story about Frank's transgressions. She advised that she has done an initial investigation and does think Frank cheated, but she is currently off to France to write articles about Women's Soccer, so she will be unable to consider writing the article until she returns. We responded and stressed the importance of having this story written asap. We asked her to have another member of her team write the article.
See the correspondence below.
To: "Elliott, Helene"
Sent: Tuesday, June 11, 2019 9:53 AM
Subject: Re: NEED LA TIMES TO WRITE/PUBLISH IMPORTANT SPORTS ARTICLE
Thanks for your response. Hopefully someone else on your team can take up this story in your absence. Ultimately, we want you to write it based on your pedigree, but timeliness is critical here, so another writer from your team would suffice. What makes this story strange and compelling is that Frank is 70 years old, an accomplished doctor and important figure in the Latin American community. He volunteers for multiple activities in the community, including acting as an assistant coach to the cross country running team at Loyola High School. As per a new article published yesterday (link below) on the Marathon Investigation site, the Loyola Cross Country coach has come to Frank's defense, threatening a lawsuit against a journalist that was simply asking questions regarding Frank's results. Additionally, a fellow physician of Frank has defended his reputation with generic character claims such as "Frank a great guy. He's a natural runner", etc. Lastly, the LA Marathon has known about Frank's suspicious results since 2015, but still has allowed him to run in 2017, 2018, and 2019 and set records, and still, after being presented with damning evidence from MarathonInvestigation.com, refuses to disqualify Frank and is allowing him to maintain his fraudulent world record (for his age group) set at their race in 2019.
What makes this story important and interesting are the following two points:
1 Why would an elderly, upstanding, accomplished professional and member of the community cheat? We think it comes down to human ego. It's truly the most powerful force we know, especially in a society which greatly values prestige. It looks like for some, like Frank, praise and accomplishment is a drug, and he can't get enough.
2. The other angle of this story is the protection that "important" people receive from their colleagues and community when questioned regarding anomalies and suspicious activity. There is something inside people that is greatly let down when heroes of theirs cheat, which is what we think we are seeing in this case with Frank. Those people would rather blindly and aggressively deny, rather than objectively look at the evidence presented. We think this is an important human story, beyond just exposing the childishness of cheating in a running race. The conversation continues in the LetsRun forum thread (link below) regarding this situation, and it looks like the LetsRun community will not rest until this is rectified. This is where we need the power of the press, which is why we are urging the LA Times to write an article.
From: "Elliott, Helene"
Sent: Tuesday, June 11, 2019 3:11 AM
Subject: Re: NEED LA TIME TO WRITE/PUBLISH IMPORTANT SPORTS ARTICLE
Thank you for your email. I did some quick research on this person and what I've read seems to support your contention that he cheats.
However, I am about to leave for France to write columns about the women's World Cup soccer tournament, so I don't have the time to do the research and interviews this story would require. If no one else on our staff is interested, perhaps I can write it when I return from France.
Thanks for thinking of me.
Los Angeles Times
Sent: Wednesday, June 5, 2019 8:29:28 AM
To: Tips; Elliott, Helene; Hernandez, Dylan; Markazi, Arash; Plaschke, Bill; Sondheimer, Eric
Subject: NEED LA TIME TO WRITE/PUBLISH IMPORTANT SPORTS ARTICLE
Hi LA TIMES!
An unsettling story has arisen on LetsRun.com (top running site with well known online forum) regarding a 70 year old man named Frank Meza who has been cheating at marathons over the past 10 years. This likely would have gone unnoticed if Frank kept his results somewhat believable based on his running pedigree. Instead, Frank has used his cheating to set world records for his age group. Most recently, he ran a World Record (for 70+ years old) of 2:53 at the Los Angeles Marathon. After scrutinizing his record breaking run, people on LetsRun found that in the Los Angeles Marathon and his other marathons over the past 10 years, there are tremendous suspicious anomalies present in his race. Most specifically, Frank does not appear in many race photos, misses many timing mats, rarely appears in race photos, and when appearing in race video, is running considerably slow than his alleged pace (ie: the people in the video near him are running 2:53 pace and quickly gap Frank. In the video, he is likely running 9 minute pace). There is video of Frank standing on the sidewalk in the middle of the Los Angeles Marathon for 1 minute and then jumping in to run across the timing mat. Ultimately, Frank is likely riding a bike to the time mats, jumping in to run across the mat, and then getting back on the bike to ride to the next timing mat. He methodically plans when to cross the timing mat (ie: he crosses the mat to align with 2:53 overall pace). He has already been disqualified twice by the California International Marathon (CIM) for this suspicious behavior, but many of the other marathons he has run have not disqualified him. What makes this behavior from Frank even more concerning is that he is a Medical Doctor for Kaiser Permanente. We should expect better behavior and morality from a doctor.
Marathoninvestigation.com (link below) and the LetsRun thread (link below; 1648 post thus far) have already exposed Frank's behavior in detail. The last remaining issue is that after being presented with the evidence, the Los Angeles Marathon refuses to disqualify Frank (below is their response in italics). Allowing him to keep this world record he set at the Los Angeles Marathon is not acceptable to the running community and fans of fair play.
LAM Response: We’ve decided to take a different tact: Next time Frank runs one of our races there will be an official observer in place. This is a great opportunity for him to confirm his past performances and end the conversation. Pending any additional information, this is the best solution for all. Appreciate your efforts. Best.LAM"
The article we need LA TIMES to write is to document the issue and highlight that the Los Angeles Marathon will not disqualify him. We need the power of the press here. We need to pressure the Los Angeles Marathon to do the right thing and disqualify him. We know that cheating stories regarding Kip Litton, Julie Miller, and Robert Young have gone viral and garnered significant media attention. This is the next story that needs to be covered. Please help us.