Grant Wahl, a prominent U.S. soccer journalist who died in Qatar while covering the FIFA World Cup last week, suffered an “aortic aneurysm,” his family said Wednesday.
Wahl, 49, was working his eighth World Cup when he collapsed in the media booth during the quarter-final match between Argentina and the Netherlands on Dec. 9.
Medical personnel were unable to revive him.
Celine Gounder, an American physician and Wahl’s wife, posted on his website on Wednesday about his cause of death while putting an end to social media speculation about Wahl’s sudden death, including conspiracy theories that it was linked to COVID-19 vaccination.
“Grant died from the rupture of a slowly growing, undetected ascending aortic aneurysm with hemopericardium. The chest pressure he experienced shortly before his death may have represented the initial symptoms,” Gounder wrote.
“No amount of CPR or shocks would have saved him. His death was unrelated to COVID. His death was unrelated to vaccination status. There was nothing nefarious about his death.”
Wahl’s body and his possessions were repatriated to the United States from Qatar on Monday. An autopsy was performed by the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office, Gounder said.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday the U.S. had no reason to believe Wahl’s death was suspicious and praised Qatari authorities for fully cooperating with the U.S. embassy in arranging the repatriation.
Before his death, Wahl had complained of respiratory problems and had been treated for a possible case of bronchitis. He wrote for Sports Illustrated for more than two decades and then started his own website. Wahl was a major voice informing America of soccer during a time of increased interest after the U.S. hosted the 1994 World Cup.
He also brought a critical eye to the international organizing bodies of the sport.
In late November during the Qatar tournament, Wahl said he was briefly stopped at a World Cup stadium security screening point when he tried to enter while wearing a rainbow shirt in support of the LGBTQ2 community. In Qatar, same-sex relations are illegal.
Wahl said he was detained for 25 minutes, then was let go by a security commander. Wahl said FIFA apologized to him.
On his website Wednesday, Gounder expressed gratitude for the support shown to Wahl’s family following his death.
“While the world knew Grant as a great journalist, we knew him as a man who approached the world with openness and love. Grant was an incredibly empathetic, dedicated, and loving husband, brother, uncle, and son who was our greatest teammate and fan,” she wrote.
“We will forever cherish the gift of his life; to share his company was our greatest love and source of joy. Grant curated friends from all cultures and walks of life, for whom he was a generous listener, an enthusiast, a champion of others.”
— with files from The Associated Press and Reuters