Troubled swimming great Ian Thorpe will never swim competitively again, as he is in a Sydney intensive care unit recovering from an serious infection.
The 31-year-old five-time Olympic gold medallist contracted the bug after surgery at a hospital near his home in the Swiss town of Ronco sopra Ascona.
He has returned to Sydney and is receiving treatment at an intensive care ward. There were initial reports he could lose his arm, but his manager has strongly refuted the claims.
Thorpe has received a number of visitors in hospital and is said to be in good spirits, despite the apparent seriousness of his illness.
“It’s serious but it’s not life-threatening,” Thorpe’s agent James Erskine told AAP.
“He’s contracted two forms of bugs in hospital.
“He’s undergone two or three operations over the last two months so … I mean bad luck.
“He’s quite sick but that’s the situation.”
Mr Erskine rubbished early reports Thorpe could lose the use of his arm because of the infections but said Thorpe would never swim again competitively.
“From a competitive point of view – he will not be swimming competitively again I don’t think,” Mr Erskine added.
“The shoulder operation was a major operation, he’s got as many plates as Barry Sheene (the now deceased world champion motorcycle rider).”
It’s understood the infection contracted by Thorpe is similar in nature to the potentially deadly Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) superbug that has swept some hospitals in Europe.
Fellow swimmers including Michael Klim have tweeted in support of Thorpe.
Sending my thoughts + best wishes to @IanThorpe in overcoming his health issues. Draw on the past that made you our best athlete of all time
— Michael Klim (@MichaelKlimAus) April 8, 2014
In February, Thorpe landed in rehab after being found disoriented near his parent’s home at 3am on a combination of antidepressants and medication for a shoulder injury.
His admission to hospital came days after his management denied the swimming great was in rehab battling depression and alcohol abuse.
“He is battling with his health issues at the moment and he is having a tough time,” said his dad Ken.
“But hopefully in six months’ time he will be out the other side.”
Police were called to a street in Panania in Sydney’s south after a resident reportedly spotted a man trying to break into a van.
“He is in rehab for depression,” his manager James Erskine told AAP.
But Mr Erskine said the five-time Olympic gold medallist had thought he was sitting in his friend’s car.
“The owner of the car basically called the police and the police came,” he said.
“They realised it was Ian Thorpe. They realised he was disoriented.”
Mr Erskine said Thorpe, 31, had been taking antidepressants and medication for his shoulder.
“He hadn’t had a drink,” he said. “He had zero alcohol in him.”
A NSW police spokeswoman said no further action would be taken.
The incident came days after the former swimming star’s management denied earlier reports he had endured the latest round of a decade-long battle with “crippling depression” and alcohol abuse.
— Nine News Melbourne (@9newsmelb) February 3, 2014
Thorpe had been living in Switzerland for 18 months, but returned to Sydney to spend the Christmas period with his family at his parents’ Panania home.
The 31-year-old released an autobiography last year in which he said he had struggled with depression and alcohol abuse.
* Readers seeking support and information about depression can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 46 36.