Watch: Olympic Gold Medalist Matthew Mitcham Opens Up About Drugs, Depression, and Olympic Glory

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Saturday February 27, 2021
Originally published on February 22, 2021

Watch: Olympic Gold Medalist Matthew Mitcham Opens Up About Drugs, Depression, and Olympic Glory
  (Source:Matthew Mitcham/Instagram)

Openly gay Olympic Gold Medalist Matthew Mitcham opened up in a BBC sport video produced for LGBTQ History Month, speaking frankly about depression and drug use, making Olympic history, and being out in the sports world.

Citing "anxiety" that LGBTQ athletes may have around coming out, the diving champion said, "You just need to lead by example."

In the video, which runs a little more than two minutes, the 32-year-old Australian native spoke with BBC Sport correspondent Nick Hope, recalling that he knew he "liked boys from a very young age," but being 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 the rubber band to try to train myself out of being gay."

That crude form of aversion therapy didn't work, of course. Mitcham went on to recall being "in a very profound period of depression" from the time he was 14 until he was 18 years old because he did not feel he was able to "be authentically me."

Asked how he was impacted by this inability to be honest about himself, Mitcham listed "self-harm, binge drinking," and "drugs" as responses to his situation. "And it was all escapism," the champion diver added.

But Mitcham prevailed: He stepped away from substance abuse, embraced authenticity, and went to the Beijing Olympics in 2008, where, as Wikipedia notes, he "was the 2008 Olympic champion in the 10 m platform, having received the highest single-dive score in Olympic history."

"This made him the first openly gay athlete to win an Olympic gold medal," Wikipedia adds.

After winning the gold, Mitcham had to contend with another bout of the depression. Calling the achievement of a gold medal win "the most intense natural high you'll ever have," Mitcham went on to say, "it is no coincidence so many athletes talk about an 'Olympic come down.' "

That post-Olympic low sent him back to hard drugs, Mitcham said, going on to disclose that he considered suicide before going to rehab.

Now, "five years clean and sober," Mitcham told interviewer Nick Hope that he is "happy with myself," before flashing his wedding ring and singing, "I've got a husband - a really good looking one!

"He's also a really nice man," Mitcham hastened to add.

To see the video, follow this link.

And check out these pics from his Instagram:

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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