Olympic legend Ian Thorpe has said that persistent rumours about his sexuality are not based in fact.

The 23-year-old swimmer also hit back at rumours that he has grown fat while training in LA.

Known as the ‘Thorpedo’, he won five Olympic gold medals for Australia, and has high hopes for more glory at the 2008 Beijing games.

Thorpe has been the subject of endless speculation from the Australian press. Speaking to Foxtel TV network, he said:

“People can think whatever they want to think and people will tell you black and blue that I am gay.

“There is no basis for what they are saying. It’s no big deal because that doesn’t affect any part of my life.

“I don’t care what people are saying in that regard because it doesn’t mean when I get in my car I worry about what’s going to happen today or am I being followed. It’s not embarrassing.”

Thorpe did not deny he is gay in the interiew, which will lead to more speculation about one of Australia’s sporting heroes.

He is an avid follower of fashion and has launched his own jewellery line and fragrance. He also works as an ‘ambassador’ for Armani.