Ian Thorpe, the Australian Olympic swimming star, came out as gay in a recent interview after years of denying his sexuality.

Ian Thorpe Comes Out

Thorpe, 31, sat down for an interview with TV journalist Michael Parkinson and agreed to answer any and all questions – even those regarding his often questioned sexuality.

"I'm not straight 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,” Thorpe said. "I'm comfortable saying I'm a gay man. And I don't want people to feel the same way I did. You can grow up, you can be comfortable and you can be gay."

Thorpe burst onto the international swimming scene when he was just 14 at the Pan Pacific Championships. In 2000, at age 17, Thorpe won five medals at the Sydney Olympics. He won four more at the 2004 Games. In 2006, Thorpe retired – because of the media spotlight and accompanying pressure, but also because of depression he’d been battling since his early teens.

Denying his sexuality – even to his therapist – throughout his career contributed to Thorpe’s struggle with depression. The more he claimed he wasn’t gay, even declaring his straightness in his 2012 memoir This Is Me, the more difficult it became for Thorpe to admit that he was a gay man.

"What happened was, I felt that 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," Thorpe said in his length interview for the Ten network. "I didn't want people to think that I had lied about everything."

"I've wanted to [come out] for some time. I didn't feel I could," he said. "A part of me didn't know if Australia wanted its champion to be gay. I am telling not only Australia, I'm telling the world that I am and I hope this makes it easier for others now."

"I'm a little bit ashamed that I didn't come out earlier, that I didn't have the strength to do it, I didn't have the courage to do it, to break that lie,” Thorpe added. "But everyone goes on their own path to do this."

Thorpe will serve as a commentator for the Commonwealth Games in Scotland later this month.

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