Ian Thorpe admitted to rehab after Olympic gold-medallist is found disorientated in a Sydney street

The five-time Olympic gold medallist Australian swimmer is believed to have been suffering from depression after being affected by a combination of antidepressants and painkillers

Sydney

He was famous at 14 – a prodigiously talented swimmer who became Australia’s most decorated Olympian. But away from the television cameras, Ian Thorpe was battling private demons and on Monday he entered a rehabilitation clinic.

Thorpe, one of the faces of the London Olympics – thanks to his double act with Clare Balding on the BBC – was found in a street near his parents’ home, in a dazed and disoriented state, at 3am on Monday. Police, called to investigate reports of someone breaking into a car, took him to hospital for assessment, after which he was admitted to the private clinic.

His manager, James Erskine, said he had been affected by a combination of anti-depressants and painkillers and had mistaken the vehicle for a friend’s car.

“The owner of the car … called the police,” he said. “They realised it was Ian Thorpe. They realised he was disoriented … He is in rehab for depression.”

The incident followed a spell in hospital last week which Australian tabloids reported was for treatment of depression and alcoholism – problems which the swimmer, 31, revealed in an autobiography published in 2012. Mr Erskine denied these reports, saying he underwent a shoulder operation after injuring himself in a fall.

The winner of five Olympic gold medals, 10 Commonwealth golds and a record 11 world titles, Thorpe – whose success was attributed partly to his unusually large hands and feet – has struggled to adjust to life after swimming.

In This Is Me: Ian Thorpe: The Autobiography, he said he had fought crippling depression which drove him to the verge of suicide, even as he was triumphing in the pool. Facing the intense pressures of living in the spotlight, he would drink heavily to control his dark moods and “rid my head of terrible thoughts”, he wrote.

The Thorpedo assesses The Independent's front crawl 'technique'  

Thorpe, who became a star after dominating the pool at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, retired in 2006, citing a lack of motivation. He tried to make a comeback in 2011, but failed to qualify for the 2012 Games.

According to Australia’s Fairfax newspapers, he was training as recently as last August, hoping to be selected to compete at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Injury ended his hopes.

Along the way, Thorpe has searched for another outlet for his talents, dabbling in jewellery and underwear design and getting involved in several failed business ventures. A television natural, he remains under contract with the BBC.

A resident of Switzerland for the past 18 months, Thorpe arrived in Australia before Christmas to spend time with his family. Mr Erskine said he had been taking medication for his shoulder, but had not been drinking alcohol before the incident involving the police. The car’s owners declined to make an official complaint, and Thorpe will not face any criminal charges.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn