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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Ryan Shay Autopsy

Ryan Shay Autopsy: Why the delay?

In the last 4 months, everyone has waited patiently for the autopsy results of US runner Ryan Shay to be released. It was in November last year, during the US Men's Olympic Trials, that Shay collapsed at the 10km mark in Central Park, New York. He was later pronounced dead, and the story shocked the athletics world.

We have now reached March, and still no final report on the cause of death or the results from the autopsy which is performed on all sudden deaths in apparently healthy people. For example, earlier this year, actor Heath Ledger died in mysterious circumstances and an autospy report was released only two weeks later.

So not surprisingly, the voice of those who wanted to know some answers was growing steadily louder or discontented. Apparently, the Medical Director of the race was receiving 25 calls a day from various people. Even here on this site, we've received a number of questions from people asking whether we knew - of course, we are as much in the dark as anyone else. But now, it seems there may be some answers...

Runners World finds some answers

On Thursday this week, Amby Burfoot wrote an article which you can read here, detailing some of the progress made so far.

According to the article (summary for those who don't want to read the whole thing), the Medical Examiner's Office refuses to comment on any case, which is understandable, if not doubly frustrating for those wanting to know. The official word out of the Medical Examiner's office is:

"Every case is individual, and we have to do a complete job on every case that we do. We do the testing that we need until we're satisfied that we can determine the cause of death."
Apparently the four month wait for the report is not completely exceptional - it usually gets released far sooner, but four months still falls inside what the Office considers an acceptable time frame. Final testing is apparently now taking place, and according to the spokesperson, "It should be very soon now."

So within the next week or two, perhaps, we'll have some conclusive (hopefully) answers as to what would cause an apparently healthy and very fit 27 year old to collapse and die during an activity he did just about every day.

But there are some answers, provided by Ryan Shay's father, Joe. In a telephone conversation with Runners World, Shay revealed that:

A toxicology report had been conducted on the supplements Shay was using - he was sponsored by the company EAS, and so any possible contamination was investigated. Apparently, Joe Shay requested that the toxicology report be released before the rest of the results, but the Medical Examiner's Office refused, as policy is to release the report in its entireity. The toxicology report became the focus of attention because at the time, many people wondered whether drug use might have been responsible for Shay's death.

A second part of the investigation was done on tissue samples which were genetically examined. Shay's family specifically requested this to make sure that no other family members were in any danger of a similar cardiac event. Joe Shay revealed to Runners World that this testing showed that Shay DID NOT have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which was a widely reported candidate for the cause of death (including here).

So one possible cause has been eliminated, the others remain possibilities. The signs are encouraging that within two weeks, a report will be released, which will hopefully provide some answers. If and when that report is released, we'll do our best to bring to you.



Anonymous said...

Hi Ross and Jonathan,

I recently read this article:

and this one a while back:

with the bad news about elite athletes and former pros, (X had a heart attack, is on pace maker etc.) where X can be many former gods and godesses, and along with what I be advised by my doctors, I am in serious doubt that endurance training in excessive amount and racing prolonged events are healthy activities.

I would love to see some discussions about these and some guidlines for us age group athletes about how much is too much, how to train to have fun and rip the health benefit but not put our health at risk. In particular I would like to know your opinion about training for IM and Marathon and their effects on heart.


Stair ClimbLunatic said...

Wow, 6 months and no final autopsy report.

This is absolutely amazing!

What could possibly be the delay?

Anonymous said...

I am not surprised to see the delay on autopsy results. My son died suddenly (a healthy fit 30 yr old) and it took 14 months for the results to be given and then only by persistent phone calls. The delay was attributed to the crime rate in South Africe where he was touring when he died. No family should be made to wait for these results. 2 months is too long, 6 months is terrible, and 14 months disgraceful. We were told it could take 2 years. Thank God it didn't. I am researching how long different countries take to do autopsies. Any input is welcome.