Inside bodybuilding tragedies from heart attacks and clots to addiction after Cedric McMillan’s death

THE death of professional bodybuilder Cedric McMillan marks the latest tragedy to wreak havoc on a sport where its stars strive to be perfect.

His passing comes just two months after fellow stars Tom Prince and Ashley Gearhart died within days of each other.


Cedric McMillan has died aged 44Credit: Getty
Bodybuilder Tom Prince died on February 5 with his wife at his bedside


Bodybuilder Tom Prince died on February 5 with his wife at his bedsideCredit: Youtube
News of Prince's death emerged just days after it was reported that athlete Ashley Gearhart had died in her sleep


News of Prince’s death emerged just days after it was reported that athlete Ashley Gearhart had died in her sleepCredit: YouTube

And it comes just months after the industry was reeling from the death of Shawn Rhoden who suffered a heart attack and John Meadows who died of a blood clot.

McMillan’s death was confirmed by Generation Iron on Tuesday.

He suffered a heart attack while on a treadmill, according to the outlet.

The bodybuilder had delayed his return to competitive bodybuilding due to health issues, but had seemed optimistic about his chance to return in recent months.

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The Virginia-born athlete Prince, 52, died Feb. 5 with his wife at his bedside.

He earned his professional card after the 1997 NPC National Championships before making his debut with the governing body of the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness in 1999.

But the star was forced to retire in 2002 due to kidney problems caused by a genetic blood condition.

Prince’s death comes just days after the bodybuilding community was rocked by the passing of Ashley Gearhart.

The pro-bodybuilder died on January 29, her sister announced online.

She died in her sleep but her cause of death currently remains unknown.

The athlete earned his pro card in 2018 and competed in the industry for 10 years.

In a moving tribute on Facebook, her sister Aubree Rhodes said the family were “without answers” but said they could feel comfortable as Ashley was not in pain.

The bodybuilding industry was already reeling from the deaths of Rhoden and Meadows last year.

In the aftermath, attention turned to the lives of industry stars and the impacts of the quest to look perfect.

With their bulging muscles and toned physique, many could be forgiven for thinking that athletes’ bodies are healthy.

But as the late bodybuilder Rich Piana admitted in 2016, steroid use – which he says is widespread and almost unavoidable for professionals – “hurts your body”.

Piana, who died in 2017 two weeks after being placed in an induced coma, said the year before: “If you have the choice to go natural or take steroids, stay natural.


“There’s no reason to take steroids, you’re just hurting your body, you’re hurting yourself.”

But he admitted: “If you want to become a professional bodybuilder, guess what? You’re probably going to have to do them. You won’t have a choice.”

Cops found bottles of testosterone and white powder in the house and his girlfriend Chanel admitted he had been juicing for over 20 years.

Rhoden, who became the oldest person to win the prestigious Mr. Olympia title at the age of 43 in 2018, suffered a fatal heart attack in November.

Hours before his death, he posted an article about someone taking care of his heart.

Rhoden said, “Be with someone who will take care of you. Not materialistically, but will take care of your soul, your well-being, your heart, and all that is you,” the quote read.


Rhoden also added his own commentary to the quote, writing “A real speech”.

After Meadows’ death in August, fans speculated that his death could be linked to a heart attack the bodybuilder suffered early last year after a 30-year career.

The athlete died from a pulmonary embolism.

In July, 23-year-old female bodybuilder Odalis Santos Mena suffered cardiac arrest and died following botched surgery to stop her excessive underarm sweating.

Coroners pointed to a deadly combination of the steroid Mena was taking and the anesthetic, the New York Post reports.

And it’s not just established stars who succumb to the pressure.

Mr England runner-up Ben Harnett, 37, died in 2019 after taking steroids before a bodybuilding event.

He had been married for less than a year and had a five-month-old baby girl when he was found dead.

Coroner Eric Armstrong said: “He was proud of his body but became ‘too proud’ and, trying to get the best out of his body, started using steroids.

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“I sincerely hope that Ben’s death reverberates in the world of bodybuilding and that people realize the risks they are taking.

“It’s the loss of a life that shouldn’t have happened.”

Shawn Rhoden, who was the oldest Mr. Olympia champion, died of a fatal heart attack last year


Shawn Rhoden, who was the oldest Mr. Olympia champion, died of a fatal heart attack last yearCredit: Instagram / Shawn Rhoden
John Meadows died of a pulmonary embolism


John Meadows died of a pulmonary embolismCredit: Getty

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Teresa E. Burton