'There was nothing nefarious about his death'

Wife of US soccer reporter: He died of ruptured aorta at World Cup, no foul play

Celine Gounder announces results of autopsy performed on her late spouse Grant Wahl, after his brother initially suggested he had been killed

Grant Wahl smiles as he holds a World Cup replica trophy during an award ceremony in Doha, Qatar, on November 29, 2022. (Brendan Moran, FIFA via AP)
Grant Wahl smiles as he holds a World Cup replica trophy during an award ceremony in Doha, Qatar, on November 29, 2022. (Brendan Moran, FIFA via AP)

WASHINGTON — Grant Wahl, a leading American sports reporter who died suddenly while covering the World Cup in Qatar, suffered a fatal rupture of the aorta, the main blood vessel leading from the heart, his wife said Wednesday.

“There was nothing nefarious about his death,” said Celine Gounder, a renowned epidemiologist, dismissing speculation on social media that Wahl’s death was the result of foul play or a COVID vaccination.

In a message published on Wahl’s Substack page, Gounder said an autopsy performed in New York found that the 49-year-old Wahl had died from a rupture of a “slowly growing, undetected ascending aortic aneurysm.”

An aortic aneurysm is a rupture of the aorta, the major blood vessel carrying blood away from the heart.

“The chest pressure he experienced shortly before his death may have represented the initial symptoms,” said Gounder. “No amount of CPR or shocks would have saved him.”

“His death was unrelated to COVID,” she said. “His death was unrelated to vaccination status.”

The statement came after Wahl’s brother suggested foul play in his sibling’s death, before later reversing himself.

Wahl collapsed while covering the quarter-final between Argentina and the Netherlands on Friday.

He had complained on his Substack of feeling unwell in the week before his death.

Days earlier, Wahl had a run-in with Qatar’s World Cup organizers over a rainbow LGBTQ shirt that he wore to a match. Qatar criminalizes homosexuality and Wahl said security guards told him the shirt was “political.”

Wahl, who was covering his eighth World Cup, helped build soccer’s popularity in the United States through his reporting for Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports and other media.

Wahl joined Sports Illustrated, then the leading US sports publication, in 1996 to report on soccer. He remained at the magazine until 2020, joining CBS Sports a year later.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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