One of Australia’s best-known sporting heroes has issued a statement after press speculation about the nature of his relationship with a fellow swimmer.

Ian Thorpe, known as the ‘Thorpedo’, won five Olympic gold medals for Australia and eleven World Championship golds. He retired in 2006.

The 26-year-old has been the victim of persistent rumours about his sexuality.

A recent month-long holiday with close friend, longtime housemate and fellow swimmer and Daniel Mendes let to more press speculation.

Yesterday Mr Thorpe spoke out.

“Over the last few days there have been a series of press articles published speculating about my friendship with Daniel Mendes,” he said.

“I am still friends with many of the people I competed and trained with during my swimming career.

“Daniel is one such good friend whom I have known for many years.

“I have only commented on this issue at this time because I draw a line when innuendo implicates people like my family and my friends.

“I find this kind of inaccurate speculation tiresome and I am annoyed by the hurt it has caused those closest to me.”

Mr Thorpe said in 2006 that he did not mind being a gay icon.

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.”

Mr Thorpe has his own jewellery line and fragrance and has worked as an ‘ambassador’ for Armani.

At the 2008 Olympics Matthew Mitcham, an Australian diver, was the only out gay male athlete competing. He won gold in the 10m event.