Scottish cycling champion Graeme Obree has revealed that he is gay – and that he tried to kill himself twice as he struggled to accept his sexual orientation.

The 45-year-old, known as the Flying Scotsman, has twice won the world individual pursuit title and has also twice broken the world hour record.

He told the Scottish Sun that his suicide attempts were linked to his sexual orientation.

“I was brought up thinking you’d be better dead than gay,” he said. “I must have known I was gay and it was so unacceptable.

“I was brought up by a war generation – they grew up when gay people were put in jail. Being homosexual was so unthinkable that you just wouldn’t be gay. I’d no inkling about anything, I just closed down.

“People say, ‘How can you be gay and be married and have kids and not know it?’

“But when I went to my psychologist she reckoned I had the emotional age of about 13 because I’d just closed down.”

Obree, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, said he came out to his wife and family in 2005 after seeing a psychologist. He has now divorced his wife.

He said: “It did create a bit of tension. My parents had to come to terms with the whole gay thing, it’s been a journey for them.

“It was difficult and there were lots of tears. It wasn’t easy. But the relationship with my parents has been improved by it.

“We talked about it and discussed things and we’re a lot happier.”