Five-time Olympic swimming gold medallist Ian Thorpe has revealed he is gay in an interview with British presenter Michael Parkinson aired today on Australia's Network Ten.
Thorpe rose to national hero status in Australia when he claimed three gold medals in the pool during the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and went on to add two more gold at Athens 2004.
The 31-year-old is Australia's most decorated swimmer with a total of nine Olympic medals, 13 world titles and 10 Commonwealth Games gold medals.
He retired in 2006 before making an unsuccessful comeback attempt for the London 2012 Olympics.
The man known as "Thorpedo" broke 22 world records during his career, but since retiring in 2012 he has been the subject of constant rumours about his private life.
In his autobiography This Is Me, published in 2012, Thorpe revealed he has been battling with "crippling depression" since his teenage years but denied longstanding rumours he was gay, writing he dated only women and hoped to marry and have children.
However, in the interview with Parkinson, when asked, "You've always said that you're not gay; Is all of that true?", Thorpe replied: "I've thought about this for a long time...I'm not straight."
He continued: "And this is only something that very recently - in the past two weeks - I've been comfortable telling the closest people around me exactly that.
"I don't want young people to feel the same way I did.
"I've wanted to for some time.
"I couldn't, I didn't feel as though I could.
"The problem was I was asked at such a young age about my sexuality.
"I went to an all-boys school...so if you're accused of being gay then the first answer is no and you get ready for a fight.
"I didn't know at the stage, I was too young.
"I carried this.
"I thought that the lie had become so big that I didn't want people to question my integrity.
"A little bit of ego comes into this.
"I didn't want people to question whether I'd lied about everything.
"Yes, I lied about it.
"I'm comfortable saying I'm a gay man.
"My parents told me that they love me and that they support me.
"Part of me didn't know if Australia wanted its champion to be gay.
"But I'm telling the world that I am."
In February this year, Thorpe was admitted to a rehab centre in Sydney to treat depression after it was reported he was found "disorientated" due to taking a combination of antidepressants and medication for a shoulder injury.
Thorpe also revealed in the interview that the thought of "leaving friends and family" was "the only thing" that stopped him from attempting to take his own life.
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February 2014: Olympic swimming champion Ian Thorpe "in rehab for depression"
January 2011: Ian Thorpe encouraged to make comeback for London 2012