Richard Eugene Piana (September 26, 1970 – August 25, 2017) was an American bodybuilder, businessman, and YouTuber. He won the National Physique Committee (NPC) Mr. Teen California title in 1989, NPC Mr. California in 1998, and NPC competitions in 2003 and 2009.[2]

Rich Piana
Personal info
BornSeptember 26, 1970
Glendale, California, U.S.
DiedAugust 25, 2017(2017-08-25) (aged 46)
Clearwater, Florida, U.S.
Height6 ft 0 in (183 cm)[1]
Weight221–315 lb (100–143 kg)[1]
Professional career

Piana was popular in the weightlifting community for his bodybuilding achievements, openness about steroid use in bodybuilding and its associated consequences, and over-the-top extroverted personality. He maintained a successful YouTube channel which featured motivational speaking, personal life stories, exercise montages, special guest appearances, and insights into his daily life. In his videos, he often spoke of the mentality and drive of "the 5%", which he said is the percentage of people who are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals.[3][4] Piana openly discussed using anabolic steroids and hormones, including Trenbolone.[5]

In August 2017, at the age of 46, Piana collapsed and spent two weeks in a coma before dying. According to his autopsy report, both his heart and liver weighed twice the average amount for an adult male; it was also noted that he had "mild atherosclerotic disease".[6][7] However, the autopsy report was ultimately inconclusive on the cause and manner of his death due to the hospital's disposal of all toxicology specimens.[1]

Early life


Richard Eugene Piana was born in Glendale, California, on September 25, 1970.[8][9][10] He was of Armenian descent through his mother and Italian descent through his father. He was raised by his mother in Sacramento, California,[11] and his enthrallment with bodybuilding began when he was six years old; he would go to the gym to watch his mother train for her bodybuilding contests. He was influenced by her and Bill Cambra, an "old-school" bodybuilder. At age 11, he began lifting weights. Four years later, he started competing in bodybuilding contests. During his senior year of high school, he lived with his father in La Crescenta, California.[11]



Piana won the NPC Mr. Teen California competition in 1989.[12] At the age of 18, Piana started a common steroid cycle practice known as "test and deca" that combines testosterone and Deca-Durabolin. In 2014, he stated that due to the dramatic results he achieved with steroids, he got "hooked" on them.[13] In 1998, he was named NPC Mr. California.[14] He continued to compete on and off for about 25 years, winning NPC competitions in the 2003 Los Angeles Super-Heavyweight division, 2009 Sacramento Super-Heavyweight division, and the 2009 Border States Classic Super-Heavyweight division and overall championship.[2] He was featured on the cover of the November 1998 issue of Ironman magazine[2] and the Summer 2015 issue of Muscle Sport magazine.[2]

Piana had a cameo appearance as the Incredible Hulk in an episode of the television series Scrubs, and played an oiled-up muscle man named Marcus in a 2004 episode of Malcolm in the Middle (without any spoken lines).[15] He also appeared in the 1999 episode of The Parkers titled "The Boomerang Effect".[16] He was one of the main focuses of the 2017 bodybuilding documentary Generation Iron 2.[17]

In 2014, Piana asserted that he had experienced some side effects from his use of steroids, including hair loss, gynecomastia (enlarged breasts, which he had treated with medication), and signs of liver toxicity.[13] In a 2016 video, Piana backed up his decision to use steroids but advised viewers not to use them, stating, "If you have the choice to do steroids or stay natural, stay natural. There's no reason to do steroids. You're only hurting your body and hurting yourself." He then said that professional bodybuilders have no such choice, since they cannot win at that level without using the drugs.[13] He said, "I was competing on stage and I was getting to the point where I was going to keep getting blown off the stage if I didn't do them. So I took that step and that's the road I chose, and here I am."[13]

Piana offered advice on how to use steroids for those he said were going to use them anyway.[13] He said that when he was competing at the national level, he was taking 20 international units per day of Serostim, a synthetic form of human growth hormone, which would cost about $8,000 per month at ordinary prescription prices (although he was sometimes getting it for free or for about $2,000 through connections with people who had prescriptions for it to fight HIV infection).[13]

Piana quit bodybuilding competitions in his final years to spend his time as a YouTuber and businessman, with his nutrition product line called Rich Piana: 5% Nutrition. The meaning of "5%" in the name of the brand is that "5% represents the percentage of people that are out there actually doing whatever it takes to fulfill their dreams, to accomplish their goals, and to live the type of life they want to live".[18][8][9] In his post-competition life, he promoted his brand and frequently spoke about the use of steroids and hormones and the associated consequences.[19][20] He made appearances at fitness expos; in videos posted on YouTube, he gave advice about diet and fitness routines. He had 1.2 million followers on Instagram and hundreds of thousands of subscribers on YouTube.[13]

Personal life


Piana was married twice. His first marriage ended in divorce after he had an affair.[11] He then had a longstanding on-again, off-again relationship with American fitness model Chanel Jansen.[21] He married Icelandic bodybuilder Sara Heimisdóttir in 2015.[22] They separated in 2016 and he later accused her of using him to qualify for a U.S. green card and stealing money from him.[22][23] Their marriage was annulled for having occurred under false pretenses,[24] and he resumed his relationship with Jansen, who was his partner at the time of his death.[21] Piana reportedly also had a struggle with opiate addiction at some point, according to Jansen.[25]



At 1:30 p.m. on August 7, 2017,[25] Piana collapsed while receiving a haircut from Jansen at his home in Clearwater, Florida.[26] He was standing at the time and hit his head when he collapsed.[27] Jansen called 911 and followed the operator's instructions to attempt CPR until paramedics arrived about 10 minutes into her call.[27] The paramedics confirmed that Piana's heart was not beating properly. His heartbeat was eventually restored, but so much time had passed that brain damage had set in from lack of oxygen.[27] After the discovery of crushed white powder along with a straw and a credit card on the table in his home, paramedics administered naloxone, a medication used to counteract a possible opiate overdose.[28] There was later speculation about possible recreational drug use, foul play, or other unknown factors involved in his death.[29] However, Jansen denied that cocaine, heroin, or other drugs were involved, saying that Piana had sometimes snorted a high-caffeine pre-workout supplement[20][30] and that he did not use recreational drugs.[27] Twenty bottles of testosterone were reportedly found in his home.[13][25] Jansen later said that Piana's brain had been deprived of oxygen for over 30 minutes.[20] She also said that in the last few days before his collapse, he had exhibited some unusual symptoms including shortness of breath and nausea, and said she was later told these may have been warning signs of an impending cardiac arrest.[20]

After spending two weeks in an induced coma to try to reduce swelling to the brain, Piana died on August 25 at the age of 46.[23][13] An autopsy revealed "significant heart disease" and that his heart and liver weighed over twice the average amount for an adult male. Jansen said Piana was well aware that his organs were enlarged, and that this was a known side effect of the steroids and hormones he had been taking, but said he was not aware that this put him at risk for a sudden cardiac arrest.[20] The autopsy was ultimately inconclusive on the cause and manner of death.[1] No toxicology analysis was performed for the autopsy, and no access to any toxicology analysis from the period of his hospital treatment was made available to the medical examiner for study.[1] The hospital had discarded the specimens needed for a toxicology analysis to be later performed, despite specific requests to preserve them for analysis.[1] This led to conspiracy theories about a possible cover-up of the true circumstances and cause of his death.[29] The autopsy report said there was no evidence of recent injury, appearing to rule out physical trauma as a significant factor in his death.[1][29]

Rich Piana was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, California.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Palma, Noel A. (August 25, 2017). "Florida District Six Medical Examiner's Autopsy Report for Richard Piana (Case No. 5171418)" (PDF). Retrieved November 8, 2017. The body measured 72 inches in length and weighed 221 pounds.
  2. ^ a b c d "Piana, Rich". Muscle Memory. Retrieved June 29, 2018.
  3. ^ Rodger, James (August 25, 2017). "Rich Piana update: Rumours bodybuilder has died circulate". Coventry Telegraph. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  4. ^ Biederman, Felix (August 25, 2017). "Rich Piana Lived As Big As He Was". Deadspin. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  5. ^ Llewellyn, William (May 5, 2016). "Anabolic Research – Analyzing The Rich Piana Cycle". Muscular Development. Retrieved August 21, 2020.
  6. ^ "Rich Piana's Autopsy results revealed". Evolution of Bodybuilding. November 9, 2017. Retrieved August 21, 2020.
  7. ^ Herman, Scott (10 November 2017). "Rich Piana Autopsy Report: Cause of Death Undetermined?". Retrieved August 21, 2020.
  8. ^ a b c "Richard Eugene Piana (tombstone)". Find a Grave. Retrieved June 30, 2018.
  9. ^ a b "Rich Piana (temporary grave marker)". Find a Grave. August 25, 2017. Retrieved February 17, 2018.
  10. ^ "Rich Piana @instagram". Instagram. Archived from the original on 2021-12-24. Retrieved February 11, 2018.
  11. ^ a b c The Truth in Bodybuilding (June 6, 2017). "Rich Piana Apologizes! Live With on RXMuscle". YouTube. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
  12. ^ "Beloved Bodybuilder and Longtime Admitted Steroid User Rich Piana Tragically Died After Collapsing During a Haircut in His Own Home". 3 March 2021.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i Quinn, Dave (August 25, 2017). "'I Was Hooked': Bodybuilder Rich Piana Defended His 27 Years of Steroid Use Before His Shocking Death at 46". People. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  14. ^ "Rich Piana Dead: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". 25 August 2017.
  15. ^ "Les idoles (Saison 6, episode 02)". Malcolm France (in French). Archived from the original on November 4, 2020. Retrieved November 4, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  16. ^ "Rich Piana: 'No tats and wearing tights!! Welcome all the shit talking!! lol! 15 years ago weighing 280!'". Facebook. Facebook, Inc. January 13, 2014. Retrieved July 19, 2021.
  17. ^ Riggs, Mike (August 2017). "Generation Iron 2". Reason. Retrieved October 15, 2019.
  18. ^ Piana, Rich. "Rich Piana 5% Nutrition".
  19. ^ Piana, Rich (March 6, 2014). "Steroid Side Effects – Negative Comes with Positive – Rich Piana PT1". YouTube. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
  20. ^ a b c d e von Wildenradt, Reegan (November 15, 2017). "Exclusive: Rich Piana's Girlfriend Reveals Details About His Collapse and Death". Men's Health. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
  21. ^ a b Varandani, Suman (26 August 2017). "Rich Piana's Ex-Wife Sara Thanks Chanel Jansen After Bodybuilder's Death". International Business Times. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  22. ^ a b "Rich Piana accuses Icelandic former wife of using him". Iceland Monitor. November 10, 2016. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  23. ^ a b "Celebrity US bodybuilder Rich Piana dies aged 46 after collapsing two weeks ago". BBC News. August 25, 2017. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  24. ^ Piana, Rich (November 8, 2016). "Why Sara and I Split Up – No Green Card – She Wants Revenge". YouTube. Retrieved December 25, 2017.
  25. ^ a b c "Bodybuilder Rich Piana Had 20 Bottles of Steroids During Medical Emergency". TMZ Sports. August 12, 2017. Retrieved December 25, 2017.
  26. ^ "Bodybuilding champion dies after collapse". Sky News. August 26, 2017. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  27. ^ a b c d Jansen, Chanel (August 31, 2017). "Clearing Up Rumors – My Time with Rich". YouTube. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
  28. ^ Generation Iron (August 25, 2017). "Breaking: Bodybuilding Superstar Rich Piana Has Passed Away". Huffington Post. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
  29. ^ a b c RxMuscle – The Truth in Bodybuilding (November 9, 2017). "Rich Piana Autopsy: Dave Palumbo Calls Foul Play". YouTube. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
  30. ^ "Bodybuilder Rich Piana Snorted Workout Powder ... Death Inquiry Reveals". TMZ Sports. November 14, 2017. Retrieved January 1, 2018.