After years of outright denial, Australian Olympic swimming legend Ian Thorpe has confirmed rumours and speculation that he is gay.
In an interview with British talk show host Michael Parkinson, broadcast on Australian television on Sunday, Thorpe, 31, stated: “I’m not straight.”
He said that he’d only just started the process of coming out. “This is only something that very recently, we’re talking in the past two weeks, I’ve been comfortable telling the closest people around me, exactly that.”
Thorpe revealed that he was first asked if he was gay at the age of 16. “…I went to an all boys school so if you’re accused of being gay, the first answer is ‘no’, and you get ready for a fight! This is what happens, and I didn’t know at this age, I’m too young. And so the answer was no.”
He went to explain that he stayed in the closet because, “I felt the lie had become so big that I didn’t want people to question my integrity. And, a little bit of ego comes into this. I didn’t want people to question that, have I lied about everything?”
In his 2012 autobiography, This is Me, Thorpe insisted: “For the record, I am not gay and all my sexual experiences have been straight. I’m attracted to women, I love children and aspire to have a family one day.”
Thorpe told Parkinson that now, “I’m comfortable saying I’m a gay man. And I don’t want young people to feel the same way that I did. You can grow up, you can be comfortable, and you can be gay.
“I was concerned about the reaction from my family, my friends and I’m pleased to say that in telling them, especially my parents, they told me that they love me, and they support me. And for young people out there, know that that’s usually what the answer is,” he said.
Thorpe added: “… I’m a little bit ashamed I didn’t come out earlier. That I didn’t have the strength to do it. I didn’t have the courage to break that lie. But everyone goes on their own path to do this, but I just don’t want that struggle to be so hard for other people.”
When asked if the toll of staying in the closet for so many years had led to his well-documented depression, he replied: “I don’t think it’s the real cause. No. I think that it hasn’t helped. I know that it hasn’t helped. And now it’ll be something that I work on with a doctor, it’s y’know trying to live a lie.”
Thorpe, who retired in 2006, won five Olympic gold medals, the most won by any Australian, and broke 22 world records. His recent attempts to restart his swimming career have been thwarted by a shoulder injury.