Cedric McMillan, veteran bodybuilder and 2017 winner of the prestigious Arnold Classic, has died at the age of of 44. He suffered a heart attack while on a treadmill. McMillan was a U.S. Army and National Guard veteran and died from health complications as a result of COVID-19. His sponsor, Black Skull USA, shared the news via Instagram with a message from company CEO Marcelo Bella.
“We regret to inform you that our friend and brother @cedricmcmillan passed away today. Cedric will be greatly missed as an athlete, comrade, friend, and father. Our prayers are with all his family and friends. He “fought the good fight” and now he rests.”
McMillan had been suffering with health issues that kept him out of competition. He opened up about his struggles last December. He contracted COVID-19 in 2020, and recovered, but months later long COVID impacted his ability to breathe. He landed in the hospital where it was also discovered he had pneumonia. Doctors put him on life support.
Seven-time Mr. Olympia champion Phil Heath, who has competed against and trained with McMillan for years, offered his condolences via Instagram video.
“I’m still in shock over the passing of Cedric McMillan yesterday. My heart definitely hurts, but I find it important that I celebrate him for the awesome Man he was to me and others.
Meeting Ced back in the day was so cool because I found it so great to see a physique which I felt was worthy of amassing many top championships.
Traveling around the world was always special as Ced would typically be the one who would have no qualms at cracking jokes, making us all lighten up a bit. Seeing him compete and share also the stage together was cool no doubt, but I will remember his positive energy, no matter what adversity he was dealing with.
Ced, my heart aches but I know that God makes no mistakes and although I am upset that you’re not with us, I know you’ve imprinted some positive WITHIN US!!!!
Thank you for your friendship and of course bodybuilding brotherhood.
My condolences out to your family and friends. May we joke, lift and laugh again someday.”
Cedric McMillan’s death is one of many that plague this sport. Most notably, former Mr. Olympia Shawn Rhoden and iconic pro bodybuilder George Peterson both passed away in 2021. These deaths have been connected to any specific unifying connection, but they call into question the safety of the sport.
The sport’s roots go all the way back to the 1800s, and the first large-scale competition took place in 1901.
For several decades, bodybuilders have used anabolic steroids and PEDs to to build muscles and recover from injuries more quickly. Testing is not as rigorous as it should be, and in a super competitive environment, athletes have proven they will cross the line to gain an edge.
There is nothing natural about the shape and size professional bodybuilders work to develop their bodies into for competition. Often, the methods used for success have long-term negative health consequences.
McMillan turned professional in 2009, after winning the NPC Nationals. He went on to win the 2011 Orlando Show of Champions, then was victorious at the 2012 New York Pro. The year 2017 was the best for McMillan, as he won the 2017 Arnold Classic and become a top contender in the Men’s Open division. He was also a multiple-time top-10 finisher in the Mr. Olympia competition.
In 2016, the “Classic Physique” division was created for bodybuilding competitions. Many fans and bodybuilding experts saw McMillan and his “classic” physique as one of the reasons for the new division.
Bodybuilding legend and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was complimentary about Cedric McMillan’s physique — and held it up as the pinnacle of what modern bodybuilders should look like in the sport. McMillan provided commentary for the Arnold Classic in 2021, alongside Schwarzenegger.