Former Australian diver Matthew Mitcham has detailed the “crippling” addiction to crystal meth that plagued his professional career.
Former Australian diver Matthew Mitcham has detailed the “crippling” addiction to crystal meth that plagued his professional career.

Aussie Olympian’s crystal meth addiction

Former Australian Olympian Matthew Mitcham has detailed the "crippling" addiction to crystal meth that plagued his diving career after the 2008 Games in Beijing.

In an exclusive interview with BBC Sport, Mitcham discussed his troubled past with drugs and suicidal thoughts, which were typically triggered by a "post-Games comedown".

The Queenslander battled depression in his teens, becoming dependant on alcohol and binge drinking to help him cope with mental illness.

"I would literally block my nose and drink, drink, drink because the aim wasn't to get drunk, it was to throw up and pass out quicker than I did the week before," Mitcham told the BBC.

"It was relief, escapism and a way of shutting my brain off for a few hours, but it kept escalating."

Mitcham realised he was gay at an early age but felt ashamed of his sexuality. For years he pretended to be straight around teammates, and subsequently began resenting the sport.

"I was so scared of it that I would actually tie a rubber band around my wrist and every time I had a gay thought I would snap it, to try and associate pain and suffering with the gay thought. To try and train myself out of being gay," he said.

Matthew Mitcham competes at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Matthew Mitcham competes at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

After briefly quitting diving, Mitcham made a comeback to the sport just 15 months before the Beijing Games in 2008.

The decision paid dividends, with Mitcham breaking an Olympic record to secure an unlikely gold medal in the men's 10m platform event.

The 20-year-old stunned local spectators by scoring 112 in his final routine, clinching gold from Chinese rival Zhou Luxin.

Having gone public with his sexuality in the lead-up to the Games, Mitcham cemented his spot in history as the first openly gay male Olympic champion.

 

Matthew Mitcham parades his gold medal.
Matthew Mitcham parades his gold medal.

However, Mitcham slipped into old habits after discovering he remained at No. 2 on the global rankings, abusing his body and developing an addiction to crystal meth.

"Knowing I would be drug-tested at every competition I would detox from drugs for the weeks before competing and I'd go through these horrible withdrawals," he told the BBC.

"They were so bad that I'd promise myself with every cell in my body that I was not going to use again, but I couldn't ever keep the promise.

"It got dark. My self-esteem was shattered, at times killing myself seemed like the easiest way to deal with this, but I finally took myself to rehab."

Mitcham has been clean since retiring from the sport in 2016, and last year married his British partner Luke Rutherford.

Australian diver Matthew Mitcham and partner Luke Rutherford at their wedding.
Australian diver Matthew Mitcham and partner Luke Rutherford at their wedding.

Alongside his famous Olympic triumph, he claimed a gold medal and six silvers at Commonwealth Games events in 2010 and 2014.

"I'm really happy with how my life is," Mitcham said.

"I've been hard on myself throughout my life, but I look back with kinder eyes now, and I'm proud of not only what I won but being able to do it all as an openly gay man, because of the oppression that is still felt in so many countries around the world.

"I'm pleased to have hopefully played a small part in that because visibility is so important."

 

 

 

 

 

Originally published as Aussie Olympian's crystal meth addiction

Australian diver Matthew Mitcham and partner Luke Rutherford at their wedding.
Australian diver Matthew Mitcham and partner Luke Rutherford at their wedding.


REVEALED: Plans for servo, food outlet lodged with council

Premium Content REVEALED: Plans for servo, food outlet lodged with council

The fate of an application for a new service station and food outlet is in the...

WHOPPING BOOST: New fast food store serves up 50 local jobs

Premium Content WHOPPING BOOST: New fast food store serves up 50 local jobs

A development application for the Hungry Jack’s store in Bundaberg East was first...

FIGHT NIGHT: ‘Golden Boy’, ‘Superman’ on card for local comp

Premium Content FIGHT NIGHT: ‘Golden Boy’, ‘Superman’ on card for local comp

With more than 20 fights on the card, this tournament is set to be a night full of...