Sydney: Ian Thorpe, Australia’s most successful Olympic swimmer, has been admitted to a rehabilitation clinic after police found him disoriented on a Sydney street early on Monday.
Thorpe, 31, who admitted in his 2012 memoir to using alcohol to combat the depression with which he had struggled since his teens, was picked up at 3 am by police responding to calls about a man near a vehicle. The street where he was found is close to the home of his parents, in Sydney’s southwest, where he has been living since Christmas.
A 14-year-old boy raised the alarm after hearing a noise outside his family home and seeing Thorpe attempting to gain entry to a van in the driveway, media reports said. “He was taken to hospital for medical assessment,” a spokeswoman said. “No official complaint has been made and no further police action is anticipated.”
Reports in Sydney last week that Thorpe, winner of five gold medals in freestyle events at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games, had been admitted to a rehab clinic were denied by his management firm who said that he was being treated for a shoulder injury suffered in a fall.
Late on Monday, however, Thorpe’s manager, James Erskine, confirmed Thorpe was now in a rehabilitation clinic. He said the swimmer had taken antidepressants before was found by police but had not been drinking.
“There was no alcohol involved… He hadn’t had a drink. He had zero alcohol in him,” Erskine said. “He was disoriented and tried to get into what he thought was a friend’s car.
Erskine said ‘he has got to confront the problems and get better’ and that false reports a few days ago of Thorpe being admitted to a rehabilitation clinic had not helped the former swimmer.
“The false reports did upset him. I’m not saying it sent him in a downward spiral but it did upset him. He didn’t go to rehab. That’s the truth,” said Erskine. “Everyone has to give him some space.”
He said he had spoken with Thorpe’s mother, who was very worried about her son.
“Like all mums, she is very concerned about him. He has mentioned in his autobiography that he suffers from depression and it is an awful thing to have. He has to get better and is going to need outside help,” said Erskine.
In his memoir, This Is Me, Thorpe said he had at times considered suicide and had drunk large amounts of alcohol to deal with crippling depression.
“I suppose it was inevitable that I’d turn to other, artificial ways of managing my feelings, and I found alcohol,” Thorpe wrote.
The swimmer, who announced his retirement from competitive swimming in 2006, assembled an array of lucrative endorsements before making an ill-fated attempt to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. He missed out but was in training until August last year in an attempt to compete in this year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow until forced to withdraw with a shoulder injury.
He became the first person to win six gold medals at one world championships, in 2001, among 11 world titles overall — along with 10 Commonwealth Games gold medals.
“There wouldn’t be an Australian who hasn’t got the pride and joy of seeing Ian Thorpe winning gold. He’ll get through this.”