Swimming: Thorpe opens up over drink and depression


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The Independent Online

The Australian swimming star Ian Thorpe says he has spent much of his life battling "crippling depression", and often drank huge amounts of alcohol to manage his moods.

The five-time Olympic freestyle champion has opened up about his depression in his book This is Me: The Autobiography, written with Robert Wainwright, which is set to be released next month.

Thorpe reveals that he has never spoken openly about it before: "Not even my family is aware that I've spent a lot of my life battling what I can only describe as a crippling depression."

The 30-year-old, who became popular with British TV audiences this summer when he acted as a commentator during the BBC's Olympic coverage, claims he had striven to be perfect and had wanted to keep what he felt was a "character flaw" from his family.

While in training for the Athens Olympics, Thorpe decided to get answers and made a "clandestine visit" to a doctor, where he received help, including medication.

While he said he was not an alcoholic, he began succumbing to alcohol as time went on: "I used alcohol as a means to rid my head of terrible thoughts, as a way of managing my moods – but I did it behind closed doors, where many depressed people choose to fight their demons before they realise they can't do it without help. There were numerous occasions, particularly between 2002 and 2004 as I trained to defend my Olympic titles in Athens, that I abused myself this way – always alone and in a mist of disgrace."

Thorpe said he was able to hide his drinking from sports psychologists and coaches, and at times considered suicide.

He added: "It's taken me a long time to accept that being depressed wasn't my fault and rising above it is actually a strength of character."

Other themes touched on in his book include media intrusion and speculation about his sexuality.

"For the record," he writes, "I am not gay and all my sexual experiences have been straight. I am attracted to women."