Five-time Olympic swimming gold medalist Ian Thorpe for the first time publicly confirmed that he is gay during a television interview to end years of speculation about his sexuality.
Thorpe told British talk show host Michael Parkinson in an interview broadcast on Australia's Channel 10 that he just recently realised the truth about himself.
You can grow up, you can be comfortable and you can be gay.
"I'm not straight,'' Thorpe said. "And 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.''
In Thorpe's 2012 autobiography 'This Is Me', he wrote, "For the record, I am not gay and all of my sexual experiences have been straight. I'm attracted to women, I love children, and aspire to have a family one day.''
Thirty-one-year-old said being asked about his sexuality by journalists when he was just a teenager forced him to adopt a defensive attitude toward the issue.
"I felt the lie had become so big that I didn't want people to question my integrity,'' he said. "And a little bit of ego comes into this; I didn't want people to question ... have I lied about everything?''
Now, he says, he wishes he had come out sooner.
"I'm comfortable saying I'm a gay man,'' he said. "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.''
Thorpe retired from swimming in 2012 after winning five Olympic gold medals, three silvers, and one bronze, and setting 22 world records.
Thrope's comeback failure
His career peaked at the 2000 Sydney Olympics where he won three gold and two silver medals. He retired after the 2004 Athens Olympics, citing a lack of motivation, but made an unsuccessful comeback when he tried to qualify for the 2012 London Games.
In the interview, Thorpe also spoke at length about the often crippling depression he has struggled with since he was a teenager, which led him at one point to contemplate suicide. When antidepressants failed to help, he said, he turned to alcohol to ease his pain.
Meanwhile, Thorpe said he is still struggling with a broken shoulder. He contracted a serious infection when he underwent surgery earlier this year and said he still faces the prospect of more operations.