Antonio Pettigrew, who was stripped of an Olympic gold medal for using performance-enhancing drugs, died of an overdose of an antihistamine used in sleeping aids, according to an autopsy report. The medical examiner ruled the death a suicide.
The autopsy report states that he died of a "lethal concentration of diphenhydramine" (the same medication found in Benadryl). The investigators found an empty bottle of Unisom, a sleeping aid in which diphenhydramine is an ingredient, in victim's car.
Pettigrew was part of the 4x400-meter relay team that won gold at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Two years ago, the International Olympic Committee stripped him and other team members of their medals after he testified in federal court that he took human growth hormone and EPO, which boosts oxygen, between 1997 and 2001.
4x400m World Record (YouTube video). The men's World Record in the 4x400m relay, set at the 1998 Goodwill Games. Relay members were Jerome Young, Antionio Pettigrew, Tyree Washington and Michael Johson.
Since 2006, Pettigrew had coached sprinters, hurdlers and relay teams at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
A lethal intoxication with diphenhydramine was described in a 1983 case report: The patient was a 28 year old male who went into hyperpyrexia and tachycardia and died from sudden cardiac arrest. Hemorrhagic pulmonary edema and renal shock were the most prominent pathomorphological findings. At the time of death, the concentration of diphenhydramine was 5 mg/l plasma and was particularly high in the lungs (55 mg/kg) and kidneys (50 mg/kg).
Opsoclonus Due to Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) Poisoning - NEJM video.
Autopsy: Olympian died of antihistamine overdose. WralSportsfan.
Lethal intoxication with diphenhydramine. Report of a case with analytical follow-up. Hausmann E, Wewer H, Wellhöner HH, Weller JP. Arch Toxicol. 1983 May;53(1):33-9.