As the bodybuilding and fitness world mourns the death of Rich Piana, the medical condition that had been kept out of the public for two weeks is now known.
Friday afternoon, it was reported by retired bodybuilder Dave Palumbo that Piana, 46, suffered a heart attack and had been on life support. News of Piana’s condition broke August 11, when several online news outlets reported that Piana was in a coma. At least one outlet reported that he died, but later retracted the story.
Piana’s girlfriend, Chanel Jansen, also responded, saying he was fighting for his life and that details of the incident were being kept private. According to Palumbo, Jansen was cutting Piana’s hair in his Florida home August 10, when he collapsed and hit his head. After not receiving oxygen for several minutes, he was placed in a medically induced coma with hopes that his brain would heal.
Piana was reportedly breathing on his own earlier this week, but never regained consciousness. He died early Friday, August 25.
Piana was one of the most visible figures in the fitness industry in recent years. He was open about his aggressive doses of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs, which also pegged him one of the most controversial characters in bodybuilding. A former Mr. California, Piana often attacked the supplement industry, calling out products for filler ingredients with no nutritional value. He gave bodybuilders an alternative with his 5% Nutrition Real Food line of supplements.
A major attraction at fitness and bodybuilding expos, Piana attracted thousands of fans, many of whom would stand in line for hours to meet him and his tattoo-clad 5 Percent entourage. His Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube followers topped 1 million, and his videos were always highly ranked.
Piana made mainstream headlines in 2016, when a video of him slapping Jason Genova, another YouTube fitness personality with learning disabilities, went viral. Piana later apologized for the incident and went on to collaborate with Genova on a series of videos.
Social media blew up with tributes to Piana hours after his death was announced, including a lengthy good-bye post on Instagram from his estranged wife, Sara Piana.
“THANK YOU Rich for teaching me so much about life, whether it was the easy or the hard way. We had our ups and downs but we sure had an awesome time in each other’s presence along with us fighting through some dark times together,” the post read.
Reports that police found multiple bottles of steroids and a mysterious white powder in Piana’s house have not been confirmed.
5% Nutrition released a statement Friday afternoon.
“Rich’s legacy will continue to inspire the bodybuilding community for years to come as someone who sacrificed whatever it took to achieve his goals and inspired others to do the same. Even in his passing, the 5% Lifestyle will live on and the seed he has planted in so many of us will continue to grow: to be that 5% that strives for and achieves every single goal that’s set.”
Piana is the second bodybuilder to die recently. Earlier this week, IFBB pro Dallas McCarver died at the age of 26 after reportedly choking on food.
[Featured Image By Richard Stonehouse/Getty Images]