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Gay Olympic hero to become men’s health ‘ambassador’

PinkNews Staff Writer February 20, 2009

He may still be waiting for big name sponsors to beat a path to his door, but Australian diver Matthew Mitcham has been asked to take up an important role in his home country.

He is one of three new ambassadors for the government’s men’s health policy.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon paid tribute to Mr Mitcham, who won gold at the Olympic Games last year and was the only out gay man to compete in Beijing.

“He battled depression and anxiety, and retired from the sport in his teenage years after physical and emotional burnout,” she said yesterday.

“In 2007, he returned to diving and at the Beijing Olympics claimed gold.”

Ms Roxon had some difficulties last year when it emerged that one of her first choices for the health ambassador position co-authored an anti-gay, anti-transgender report.

Warwick Marsh, president of Fatherhood Foundation, was one of 34 co-authors of 21 Reasons Why Gender Matters, a report which calls homosexuality a mental disorder.

Ms Roxon announced in November that Mr Marsh would no longer be an ambassador on the panel.

“Mr Marsh has not repudiated his offensive comments. This makes his position as an ambassador untenable and I have made a decision to dismiss him from this role,” she said.

“I think these comments particularly about homosexuality are quite abhorrent.”

Mr Marsh came under fire along with fellow ambassador Barry Williams, whose name also appeared as one of the co-authors of the offending document.

Among other things, the report suggests that gay people are more likely to abuse children, be unfaithful or violent in relationships and abuse drugs.

Mr Williams has since denied he shares the views set out in the document, or that he wrote the articles in question.

“Because I contributed to that organisation, doesn’t mean that I put the words in that magazine or had anything to do with it,” he said.

“I have no discrimination against gay people – I have a lot of gay friends and I worship their friendship.”

Mr Mitcham trains 11 times a week for the 2012 London Olympics.

He became a hero to gay people across the world when he won a diving gold in Beijing.

In a shocking upset, he took home a gold medal in the 10-metre platform event, beating the Chinese favourites.

He was immortalised along with other gold medallists at the 2008 Beijing Olympics on a series of special commemorative stamps.

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