Ian Thorpe, the Australian swimmer who won more medals than any other competitor in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, was admitted to rehab on Monday. Thorpe, 31, has been taking antidepressants to battle the demons of depression he talks about in his autobiography, This Is Me. Last week, Australian tabloids made claims that Ian Thorpe was already in rehab, after he was sighted going into a hospital. His manager, James Erskine, denied all claims last week, saying that Thorpe was in the hospital for a shoulder surgery.
It appears that the combination of antidepressants and pain killers Thorpe was taking for his surgery are responsible for a bizarre early Monday morning event in Sydney. What witnesses identified as a “man stumbling in the streets” was seen leaning on a vehicle. When responders arrived on the scene, they immediately recognized the five time Olympic gold medal winner. He was sitting in a vehicle that wasn’t his, dazed and confused around 3 a.m. Thorpe was immediately taken to Bankstown Hospital. He would later say he thought the car belonged to a friend.
Ian Thorpe has had a well documented rise and fall. In the late 1990’s, leading up the 2000 Sydney Olympics, he was heralded as the golden boy of swimming for Australia. He performed marvelously at his first Olympics, winning three gold and two silver medals. In the 2004 Athens Olympics, Thorpe (nicknamed Thorpedo) won two more gold medals and a bronze. But it was soon after those games that the wheels started to come off.
Questions about Ian Thorpe’s sexuality and doping allegations began to rise to the surface. He took some time off from swimming and attempted to make a comeback in 2006, but it did not last long. He retired that year and never competed in another Olympic event, though he did try a comeback for the 2012 London Olympics.
Many family and friends had taken note of how difficult life after swimming had become for Thorpe. Erskine told the media on Monday, “He has got to get better and he is going to need outside help. He has got to confront the problems and get better.” Thorpe admitted to using wine to help dull the sadness associated with his depression. Speculation began to arise that he had developed alcoholism and the rehab visit was connected to that. His manager adamantly denies that alcohol was involved in this public incident.
“He hadn’t had a drink,” Erskine said. “He had zero alcohol in him.”
Ian Thorpe and his family are asking for privacy from the media while he works through his struggles in rehab.