THE death of bodybuilder Stacey Cummings at the age of 31 marked the latest tragedy in a sport that sees its stars strive to look perfect.
The mother-of-two's passing in April came shortly after the deaths of fellow stars Cedric McMillan, Tom Prince and Ashley Gearhart.
And it also comes just months after the industry was left reeling from the passing of Shawn Rhoden who suffered a heart attack, and John Meadows who died of a blood clot.
Cummings, who was born in Florida, started in the industry in 2013 and earned her IFBB (International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness) pro card in 2016, Generation Iron revealed.
McMillan's death was confirmed by Generation Iron days earlier.
He suffered a heart attack while on a treadmill, according to the outlet.
The bodybuilder had been delaying his return to competitive bodybuilding over health issues, but had appeared optimistic about being able to come back in recent months.
Virginia-born athlete Prince, 52, passed away on February 5 with his wife by his bedside.
He earned his pro card following the 1997 NPC National Championships before making his debut for the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness governing body in 1999.
But, the star was forced to retire in 2002 due to kidney issues that were caused by a genetic blood condition.
Prince's death comes just days after the bodybuilding community was rocked by the passing of Ashley Gearhart.
The pro-bodybuilder passed away on January 29, her sister announced online.
She died in her sleep but her cause of death currently remains unknown.
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The athlete earned her pro card in 2018 and had competed in the industry for 10 years.
In a moving Facebook tribute, her sister Aubree Rhodes said the family is “without answers” but said she could feel at ease because Ashley was in no pain.
The bodybuilding industry was already reeling from the deaths of Rhoden and Meadows last year.
In the aftermath, attention turned to the lives of the industry’s stars and the impacts of the quest to look perfect.
With their bulging muscles and toned physique, many could be forgiven for thinking the athletes' bodies are in good health.
But as late bodybuilder Rich Piana admitted in 2016 the use of steroids – which he says is widespread and almost inevitable for professionals – "hurts your body."
Piana, who died in 2017 two weeks after being placed in an induced coma, said the previous year: "If you have the choice to stay natural or do steroids, stay natural.
TRAGEDY HITS THE INDUSTRY
"There’s no reason to do steroids, you’re only hurting your body, you’re hurting yourself."
But he admitted: "If you want to become a professional bodybuilder, guess what? You’re probably going to have to f***ing do them. You’re not going to have a choice."
Cops found bottles of testosterone and white powder in the house and his girlfriend Chanel admitted that he had been juicing for more than 20 years.
Rhoden, who became the oldest person to win the prestigious Mr. Olympia title at the age of 43 in 2018, suffered a fatal heart attack in November.
Hours before he died, he posted about someone caring for his heart.
Rhoden said: "Be with someone who will take care of you. Not materialistically, but takes care of ur soul, ur well being, ur heart & everything that's you," the quote said.
'TAKE CARE OF YOUR HEART'
Rhoden also added his own commentary to the quote, writing, "Real talk."
Following Meadows' death in August, fans speculated his passing may have been related to a heart attack the bodybuilder suffered early last year following a career that spanned 30 years.
The athlete died after suffering a pulmonary embolism.
In July, female bodybuilder Odalis Santos Mena, 23, suffered cardiac arrest and died following a botched operation to stop her excess underarm sweat.
Coroners pointed to a lethal combination of the steroid Mena was taking and the anesthetic, The New York Post reports.
And it is not just well-established stars who succumb to the pressure.
Mr. England runner-up Ben Harnett, 37, died in 2019 after taking steroids before a bodybuilding event.
He had been married less than a year and had a five-month-old baby girl when he was discovered dead.
Coroner Eric Armstrong said: "He was proud of his body but became 'overproud' and in attempting to make the most of his body, began to use steroids.
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"I sincerely hope that if nothing else, Ben's death reverberates around the bodybuilding world and people realize the risks they are taking.
"This is the loss of a life that shouldn't have happened."
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