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Bodybuilder Rich Piana has died after short illness

The ex-wife of celebrity bodybuilder Rich Piana has today broken the news that many of his dedicated fans will have been dreading. After being placed in a coma just a month ago, Piana has sadly passed away.

Using her Instagram account to broadcast the tragic news, Sarah Piana wrote these heartfelt words:

"I'm in tears writing this that @1dayumay has just passed away. I can can hardly believe this... I am so saddened & heartbroken that he didn't make it."

"I just want to say THANK YOU Rich for teaching me so much about life, whether it was the easy or the hard way. We had our ups and downs but we sure had an awesome time in each other's presence along with us fighting through some dark times together. You truly touched many people's heart and helped so many!!! It inspired me in many ways to see the huge impact you had on people all over the world. Not many people know that me and him are STILL legally married till this day despite all rumors. I have NOTHING to gain by saying that but want everyone to know the truth. I know that people say stuff on social media but I truly am not the "bad" person people think I am. I actually saved Rich's life 1 time before, glad I was there for him at that time. Rich, I hope you feel better now in heaven and that you're up there healthy, smiling & telling everyone "how it is, being REAL & doing your thing". Rest In Peace my dear husband. #GoneButNeverForgotten #RichPiana #RIP 😢 🙏🏼❤️. P.S. I want to wish my deepest condolence to Chanel @c_no5 and thanking her for being there for him, loving him & showing him support. You're an angel. We will all miss him so much, may his soul & spirit Rest In Peace Forever🙏🏼. XOXO Sara Piana. . . ."

Piana, 46, made his name as an elite bodybuilder and as a former winner of Mr California, and was rushed to hospital on on 10 August after falling ill at home.

This sad news, while still officially unconfirmed, comes a week after Piana's girlfriend, Chanel Jansen, posted a photo of the couple holding hands in hospital - and asked for positive messages from Rich's army of fans.

The lack of official confirmation has not stopped tributes from flooding in on social media. Fellow professional bodybuilder Dan Fine posted his own touching tribute:

“RIP to my great brother in iron @1dayumay #richpiana. Love you brother and I know you’re crushing it at the Great Gym in the Sky.

"You’ve left behind a legion of friends and fans the world over.”

Stan McQuay, who was lightheavyweight national champion 2006, posted: “Rich @1dayumay has passed. Rich and I go way back to 1995.........He is now looking down upon us.....May he R.I.P.”

As we wait for the true details surrounding Piana's sad demise, it's clear that despite courting controversy throughout his career, he has touched the lives of many who met him. Our sincere condolences go out to the Piana family and anyone else affected by this sad news.