Even as five-time Olympic gold medallist battles depression and alcohol abuse, his representatives deny the champion swimmer is in rehab
Sydney: Australian swimming great Ian Thorpe’s handlers yesterday denied he was in rehab for depression and alcohol abuse and said he instead entered hospital for shoulder surgery.
It followed a front page splash in The Sydney Daily Telegraph that the 31-year-old was injured in a fall this week leading his family to seek medical help for the swimmer, with Thorpe reportedly admitted to hospital on Wednesday for depression and alcohol abuse.
“Ian is not in rehab,” his management firm SEL said following the report. “Ian was in hospital for an operation on his shoulder and is pleased to let his friends and fans know that he is now out of hospital and on the mend.”
The five-time Olympic gold medallist, one of Australia’s most recognised sporting figures, has struggled to adjust to life after swimming and with the disappointment of a failed effort to reach the 2012 London Olympics. And he has been open about his battle with depression and alcohol in the past. The newspaper quoted broadcaster Alan Jones, one of Thorpe’s closest associates, as saying: “Yes, it’s serious but there’s not a lot I can or want to add.
“Ian is a beautiful person but he has difficulty recognising his problems.” Thorpe, who came out of retirement in 2011 in a bid to make the team for London but failed to qualify, released an autobiography in 2012 in which he admitted a struggle with depression and alcohol. “Not even my family is aware that I’ve spent a lot of my life battling what I can only describe as crippling depression,” he wrote. “It’s a terribly dark place in which to hide.”
He added: “I suppose it was inevitable that I’d turn to other, artificial ways of managing my feelings, and I found alcohol.”
Thorpe is Australia’s most decorated Olympian with five gold medals at the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Games, with his extraordinary success attributed partly to his abnormally large feet and hands. But the demands of a celebrity lifestyle and grinding training sat uncomfortably with Thorpe and he quit in 2006, dabbling in jewellery design and television after his retirement, before the comeback.