Olympic Gold Medalist Matthew Mitcham Opens Up About Drug Addiction

Matthew Mitcham

Australian Olympic gold medalist diver Matthew Mitcham discussed his battle with a “crippling” drug and alcohol addiction in an interview with the BBC.

The 32-year-old Australian won a gold medal in the 10-meter platform diving at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Not only was he the first Australian man to win a diving gold since 1924, he was the first openly gay man to win an Olympic medal.

Those accomplishments came with a price, as he detailed to the BBC this week: A daily drug and alcohol habit that led to thoughts of suicide during his post-Olympics comedown. Those “Olympic blues” fed into all kinds of submerged feelings about what he calls a difficult childhood and years of shame about his identity and hiding his sexuality.

From the interview:

“I felt stuck not being able to be authentically me. I didn’t want to admit I’d deceived people and lied for so long, which left me feeling alienated. Diving became this darkness which permeated the rest of my life. I really hated it, but I knew it was my one chance to be special, so I kept going, effectively on autopilot.”

Mitcham, who will be inducted to the International Swimming Hall of Fame this year, quit diving for a year at age 18. He did not plan to come out publicly, revealing a live-in boyfriend by accident in a story that he later assented to having published.

The gold medal did not banish his demons; indeed, it made the 20-year-old “feel even worse because I ha no right to feel that way when I had the world at my feet.”

Mitcham retired from diving in 2016. He’s been clean and sober for five years and recently celebrated one year of marriage to his partner, Britian native Luke Rutherford.

Read Matthew Mitcham’s full interview at the BBC.

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