SYDNEY: Australian swimming great Ian Thorpe was in rehab for depression Tuesday after a mixture of painkillers and anti-depressants left him disoriented on a Sydney street, highlighting the pressures facing elite athletes after retirement.
But his manager James Erskine insisted no alcohol was involved, as the swimmer’s father suggested he faced months of treatment but would “come out the other side.”
A “dazed” Thorpe, 31, was discovered by police attempting to get into a car near to his parents’ house in the early hours of Monday and taken to hospital for assessment.
It was his second recent visit to hospital, after falling and needing shoulder surgery last week. At the time, his management denied reports that he was also being treated for depression and alcohol abuse.
Erskine told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that the five-time Olympic gold medalist was now receiving treatment for depression, a condition he has struggled with for years.
“He’d been taking prescribed drugs, painkillers for his shoulder and he’s also on prescription drugs for anti-depression . . . but it’s obviously a mixture of it and that mixture made him disorientated because he was wandering around at 3 o’clock in the morning,” he said.
Residents rang police after Thorpe tried to get into a car that he thought belonged to a friend.
As well as being open about his depression, Thorpe detailed a battle with alcohol in his 2012 autobiography, but Erskine said it was not a factor in Monday’s incident.
“There was no alcohol involved, he hadn’t been drinking or anything like that,” he said.
“The hospital then suggested— or more than suggested, I think —that he should go into rehab for depression and that’s what’s happened.”
Thorpe’s father Ken told the Sydney Daily Telegraph he was optimistic his son would pull through.
“But hopefully in six months’ time he will be out the other side,”he said.
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.
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.
But the demands of a celebrity lifestyle and grinding training saw him quit in 2006 before a comeback in 2012 in which he failed to qualify for the London Olympics.
While every major sport in Australia runs an Athlete Career and Education Program to help prepare for life after sport, Thorpe has not been able to find a direction, dabbling in jewellery design and television while attempting a number of university courses.