Jarred Rome talks with attendees during the 10th Annual Snohomish County Sports Hall of Fame Banquet at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett on Sept. 18. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Jarred Rome talks with attendees during the 10th Annual Snohomish County Sports Hall of Fame Banquet at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett on Sept. 18. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Medical examiner: Olympian Jarred Rome died from fentanyl

His mother does not believe the Marysville hometown hero took the drug intentionally.

TULALIP — Two-time Olympic athlete Jarred Rome died of a fentanyl overdose, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed Wednesday.

Rome was a hometown hero to Marysville for his discus-throwing prowess and humble spirit. He’d been inducted into the Snohomish County Sports Hall of Fame the week he died in September in Tulalip at age 42.

How the drug got into his system is unknown. His mother, Jane Blackwell, said she does not believe he took the drug intentionally. She suspects someone gave him something to treat a pain in his arm that day.

Rome represented the United States at the Olympics in 2004 and 2012, and he won a silver medal at the Pan American Games in 2011. On Sept. 18, two days after his local hall-of-fame induction, he went out with friends to the Tulalip Resort Casino. He wasn’t feeling well, his sister, Monica Rome, told The Daily Herald.

So Rome returned to his hotel room. People checked on Rome through the night. He was found unresponsive in the room early Sept. 21.

The cause of death was acute fentanyl intoxication, according to the medical examiner’s office. The report also cited a heart ailment as a “significant condition contributing to” Rome’s death.

Fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid far more powerful than heroin, has been linked to a national spike in fatal overdoses. Tests showed Rome had no other drug in his bloodstream that could have contributed to his death. The death is considered an accident.

The full toxicology report has not been made public. It’s unclear how Rome acquired fentanyl, or in what form he consumed the drug. Locally, street drug dealers have trafficked in pills that appear to be Percocet but are really fentanyl. In serious cases, fentanyl can be prescribed and worn in a patch. The medical examiner’s office did not say if Rome had a prescription. Tulalip tribal police did not immediately respond to a Herald reporter’s inquiry Wednesday.

Around the end of July, Rome suffered a collapsed lung, his mother said. He woke up one morning, couldn’t breathe and went to the hospital, she said. He’d also been diagnosed with Lyme disease and dilated cardiomyopathy — an enlarged left ventricle. He was ill for hours in the hotel room.

Rome worked out every day and took meticulous care of his body, which he knew well.

“Jarred wouldn’t even eat flour,” Blackwell said. “He wouldn’t eat sugar at Christmas.”

Many local kids knew him through throwing clinics. Hundreds of athletes, including fellow Olympians and students he coached, attended his memorial.

Rome was a large man. He stood 6-foot-4 and weighed over 300 pounds. He is one of the most decorated athletes in Snohomish County history. The 1995 graduate of Marysville Pilchuck High School was a three-sport star in his prep days as a member of the Tomahawks’ football, basketball and track and field teams. It was in the throwing events where he excelled most. He went on to become a six-time track and field All-American at Boise State University in the discus and shot put.

The Olympian directed the Ironwood Thrower Development Camp in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and he was a track and field assistant coach at Boston University. He moved to the East Coast in the summer of 2018, living in Sudbury, Massachusetts, with his wife, Pam Spuehler, a decorated field hockey player and senior national women’s team member in the early 2010s.

A memorial fund has raised $22,000 to benefit the throwing camp.

In the acceptance speech just before his death, Rome recounted how he pushed past failures to reach the pinnacle of his sport. His mother encouraged him to stick with the sport in 2003, when he was ready to quit. In the years that followed, he went on to throw around the globe and to set personal bests.

“I was never the top thrower in high school, I was never the top thrower in college,” he said at the recent hall of fame induction. “I considered myself to be the hardest worker. I never had the talent, I frankly never believed I could make the national team, that was never a goal of mine. The support I had shows tonight from the family and friends who are here, without your support I would never be here.”

More about fentanyl

In the pharmaceutical world, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid used to treat severe pain. It can be 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The drug was developed for pain management in cancer patients, applied in a patch on the skin.

Most fentanyl-related harm, overdose and deaths in the U.S. are linked to an illegally made version of the substance, according to the CDC. Illicit fentanyl is sold for its heroin-like effect.

Many users believe that they are purchasing heroin and actually don’t know that they are purchasing fentanyl – which often results in overdose deaths, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Illicitly made fentanyl use is on the rise.

According to data from the National Forensic Laboratory Information System, confiscations of fentanyl increased by nearly seven-fold from 2012 to 2014. This suggests the increase in fentanyl-related deaths may be due to increased availability of the illegally made drug.

Overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids increased almost 47% from 2016 to 2017, according to the CDC. About 28,400 people died from overdoses involving synthetic opioids in 2017.

Julia-Grace Sanders contributed to this story.

Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; chutton@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.

Talk to us

More in Local News

FILE - A Boeing 747-8, Boeing's new passenger plane, takes its first flight, Sunday, March 20, 2011, at Paine Field in Everett, Wash. After more than half a century, Boeing is rolling its last 747 out of a Washington state factory on Tuesday night. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Boeing’s last 747 to roll off the Everett assembly line

The Queen of the Skies was dethroned by smaller, more fuel-efficient jets. The last 747s were built for a cargo carrier.

PUD workers install new transformers along 132nd Street on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022 in Mill Creek, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Electric vehicles spur big forecast jump for PUD demand

Not long ago, the Snohomish County PUD projected 50,000 electric cars registered in the county by 2040. Now it expects up to 660,000.

Traffic moves northbound on I-5 through Everett on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Grinding work still needed for I-5 through Everett

Construction crews need warmer temps for the work to remove what a reader described as “mini raised speed bumps.”

After a day of learning to fight fires, Snohomish firefighter recruit Chau Nguyen flakes a hose as other recruits load the hoses onto a fire truck April 19, 2018, at the training facility on S. Machias Rd. in Snohomish. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)
Lawsuit: Everett firefighter sexually harassed numerous recruits

Chau Nguyen resigned earlier this year, long after the first complaint about his behavior at the county’s fire training academy.

Marysville
Marysville to pay $1M to another former student for alleged sex abuse

The latest settlement marks the earliest known allegations against Kurt Hollstein, who worked in the district until last year.

Mike Rosen
Businessman Mike Rosen announces campaign for mayor of Edmonds

Rosen, a city planning board member, is backed by five former Edmonds mayors. It’s unclear if incumbent Mike Nelson will run again.

The Everett Police Department was investigating a woman's death Sunday morning after a driver hit and killed her on Broadway in north Everett. (Everett Police Department)
Woman killed by suspected impaired driver in Everett

A driver reportedly hit the person, which prompted the closure of Broadway between 17th and 19th streets Sunday morning.

Ty Juvinel stands beside the towering welcome figure that he created for the Edmonds Waterfront Center on Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, in Edmonds, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
‘Our heritage is a gift’: 500-year-old log is carved into Tulalip welcome

The wooden figure represents matriarchs who “can see the potential you have that you don’t know yet,” explained artist Ty Juvinel.

Customers enter and exit the new Costco on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022 in Lake Stevens, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
The wait is over as Costco opens in Lake Stevens

The new store, in the works since 2018, opened Friday. Some came for the specials, others had a hankering for hot dogs.

Most Read