Dr. Céline Gounder speaking to CBS Mornings on the death of her husband, Grant Wahl. Dr. Céline Gounder speaking to CBS Mornings on the death of her husband, Grant Wahl.

Following the sudden passing of famed soccer writer Grant Wahl (who had just turned 49) at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, there was a lot of speculation about just what had happened to him. From his brother Eric’s initial comments of “I believe he was killed” (which he eventually fully walked back to “I no longer suspect foul play” and apologized for Tuesday) to questions about why a stadium defibrillator didn’t seem to be used after he collapsed to questions about how he was transported to hospital and even some people trying to tie his death to COVID-19 and/or vaccines against it, there was a wide variety of information being put out there about Wahl’s passing. Now, there’s an authoritative answer, with Wahl’s wife, renowned infectious disease physician Dr. Céline Gounder, revealing the results of his autopsy on his Substack page:

The key part of that:

Grant arrived home Monday, December 12, and this transition was handled with the utmost care and sensitivity. This was an international matter that required coordination from multiple agencies domestically and internationally, and there was full cooperation from everyone involved. Our sincere gratitude to everyone involved in repatriating Grant, in particular the White House, the U.S. Department of State, FIFA, U.S. Soccer and American Airlines.

An autopsy was performed by the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office. 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. 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.

Gounder also spoke to The New York Times, for a piece by Apoorva Mandavilli and Andrew Das:

His death resulted from a weakness in an artery wall called an aneurysm, which may balloon outward and then tear open. An autopsy conducted in New York revealed that Mr. Wahl, 49, experienced a catastrophic rupture in the ascending aorta, which carries oxygenated blood from the heart.

…Mr. Wahl’s wife, Dr. Celine Gounder, is a leading infectious disease physician who rose to prominence during the coronavirus pandemic and advised President Biden’s transition team on Covid-19. She and the rest of the family rejected, in particular, the speculation linking his death to vaccines, saying that it was especially insulting because of her work.

He probably died instantly and did not feel pain, Dr. Gounder said in an interview on Tuesday. “I really do feel some relief in knowing what it was,” she said.

…Dr. Gounder said she wanted to ascertain the circumstances of her husband’s death in part to quell online speculation. “I wanted to make sure the conspiracy theories about his death were put to rest,” she said.

As that piece notes, aneurysms can often go undetected. The weakening of blood vessels there can produce symptoms including a cough, shortness of breath, and/or chest pain, which Wahl had complained of ahead of his death.

Gounder also spoke about Wahl’s death to Gayle King on CBS Mornings Wednesday. Here’s that piece:

And Gounder had a lovely tribute to her husband in the rest of that Substack post (which is free to read). Here’s some of that:

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. 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. To know Grant was to know a true renaissance man; he was endlessly curious about the world, and a lover of literature, art, music, food, and wine. He was equally in his element cooking a quiet dinner of sole provencal for two, walking his beloved Zizou and Coco through Manhattan, gathering friends for a raucous dinner party, and traipsing across Moldova chasing a story. 

Our thoughts go out to Gounder, and to the rest of Wahl’s family and friends.

[SubstackThe New York Times, top photo via CBS Mornings]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.