“I’ve thought about this for a long time. I’m not straight,” said the 31-year-old.
“And this is only something that very recently, we’re talking the past two weeks, I’ve been comfortable telling the closest people around me.”
Thorpe, who made his Olympic Games debut in Sydney in 2000, winning three golds and another two in Athens 2004, had previously denied in interviews he was gay and wrote in his 2012 autobiography ‘This Is Me’ that he was heterosexual.
‘Part of me didn’t know if Australia wanted its champion to be gay’
On the decision of coming out, after retiring in 2006, aged 24, due to waning motivation before making an unsuccessful comeback bid for the London 2012 Olympics, the Olympian said:
“I have wanted to [come out] for some time, but I couldn’t, I didn’t feel as I could.”
“The problem was that I was asked at such a young age  about my sexuality (…). I didn’t know at this age, I was too young and so the answer was ‘no’.
“The way I carried answering this was telling people that it was not appropriate for that question to be asked. But the lie became so big that I didn’t want people to question my integrity.”
During the interview, the ten-time Commonwealth Games gold medalist also revealed details of being subjected to homophobic abuse and of his depression, which caused him to check into a rehabilitation unit earlier this year.
“The only thing is that I am a little bit ashamed that I didn’t come out earlier, that I didn’t had the strength to do it. I didn’t had the courage to do it, to break that lie. But everyone one goes on their own path to do this and I just don’t want that struggle to be so hard for other people.”
“Part of me didn’t know if Australia wanted its champion to be gay,” he told Parkinson.
World’s reaction to the announcement
Swimming Australia president John Bertrand congratulated Thorpe for making his stand.
“The fact that one of our greatest Olympic athletes has been so honest sets a precedent in this country for more open dialogue,” he said in a statement.
“It was great to see Ian looking so happy and healthy during the interview, after what has clearly been a difficult year for him with injury and illness.”
— Pieter vd Hoogenband (@pvdhoogenband) July 13, 2014
— AUS Olympic Team (@AUSOlympicTeam) July 13, 2014
I’m sure it must have been incredibly hard for @IanThorpe to come out, but I hope this bring him peace and that everyone respects his choice
— Stephanie Rice (@ItsStephRice) July 12, 2014
Ian Thorpe’s coming out is fantastic. When we live our OWN lives we shine as beacons and terrify those who profit from darkness. Wonderful.
— Michael Cashman (@mcashmanCBE) July 13, 2014
Well done @IanThorpe on your ‘coming out’. Look, mate, it was a brave and right decision. Good luck to you.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) July 13, 2014
— Nigel Owens (@Nigelrefowens) July 13, 2014
— Jason Collins (@jasoncollins34) July 12, 2014
You did things in the pool that many couldn’t, now you’re doing things out of the pool that many wouldn’t. Congrats mate! @IanThorpe
— Cody Royle (@codyroyle) July 14, 2014