Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe has said that he didn’t come out sooner because he didn’t want people to think he had “lied about everything”.

The five-time Olympic gold medallist swimmer, 31, revealed today in an interview with Michael Parkinson that he is gay.

Thorpe – who also spoke about his battle with depression – has previously vehemently denied rumours about his sexuality, writing in 2012: “For the record, I am not gay and all my sexual experiences have been straight.”

He told Parkinson today: “I’m not straight. And this is only something that very recently, we’re talking in the past two weeks, I’ve been comfortable telling the closest people around me exactly that.

“What happened was I felt the lie had become so big that I didn’t want people to question my integrity.

“And, you know, a little bit of ego comes into this. I didn’t want people to question that… have I lied about everything?

“I’ve wanted to [come out] for some time. I didn’t feel I could. Part of me didn’t know if Australia wanted its champion to be gay.

“I’m comfortable saying I’m a gay man. And I don’t want young people to feel the same way that I did. You can grow up, you can be comfortable and you can be gay.

“I was concerned about the reaction from my family, my friends.

“I’m pleased to say that in telling them, and especially my parents, they told me that they love me and they support me. And for young people out there, know that that’s usually what the answer is.”

During his career, Thorpe won nine Olympic medals – five gold, three silver, one bronze – in addition to 11 World Championship titles, and 10 Commonwealth Games gold medals.