SYDNEY • Australian Olympic swimming great Grant Hackett has blamed excessive drinking and anxiety attacks for a series of unsavoury incidents that badly tarnished his reputation.
The 37-year-old sought help for mental health issues in February after being arrested at his parents' home following a family bust-up. He then went missing for several days, sparking fears for his safety.
He said he had been in a bad place mentally and drinking excessively as he opened up yesterday for the first time since then.
"I was in a bad place, I suffer from pretty bad anxiety and ended up drinking. I drank too much at my parents' house and got into an argument with my dad," he told KIIS commercial radio.
Several weeks earlier, he had got into a fight with his brother, who was trying to help him recognise he had problems. It left him with a black eye.
"I wasn't in a good space for a couple of months and he came over to my house and I was refusing that help, I didn't want him to come in and when I get in that state of mind I get quite reclusive," Hackett said.
He added that the incident at his parents' home had terrified him, and prompted him to seek help after admitting he hit "rock bottom".
"I was deep down in that ditch and hit rock bottom," he said. "When I got arrested I thought, 'This is it, I've had enough of this.'
"I get anxiety, I haven't handled the past few years very well in bits and pieces. Ever since I went through that divorce and all the publicity that followed."
Hackett retired after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, having won the 1,500m freestyle at both the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Games. He also claimed four world titles in the 30-length event.
But he quickly ran into problems with a messy divorce and allegations he smashed up his Melbourne home in 2011. Then in 2014, he checked into a United States rehabilitation clinic to treat an addiction to sleeping pills.
He came out of six years of troubled retirement in 2014 in a bid to make the Rio Games, but narrowly missed out on a berth. After the Olympic trials last year, he hit the headlines again with a public meltdown on a plane.
He was also accused of drunkenly squeezing the nipple of a fellow business-class passenger in an another embarrassing incident.