Ian Thorpe last night appeared on The Recruit, a reality TV show on pay television which pits 15 footy players against each other in the battle for an AFL contract.
Thorpe opened up to the group about coming out as gay late in his career.
“Once you’ve told the lie it feels easier just to continue the lie,” Thorpe said.
“I struggled being in the closet — I don’t struggle with being out."
He said it was difficult for him, because he was fist asked about his sexuality at such a young age.
“I was 16 at the time, and it’s too young to be asked this. Because it felt like I was being accused of it, you know, I’ve always just thought of it as a negative.”
“I struggled being in the closet — I don’t struggle with being out,” the olympian said.
Thorpe said young people were exposed to homophobia regardless of their sexuality, and that’s what stopped people from being themselves. He said it was up to those within the game to change that culture.
“We need to make sure that sport is a place where kids can be themselves - no matter what differences they may have,” Thorpe said.
“So for you guys, try and nip it in the bud. It’s 2016 and it’s about time to end it.”
Rhett Coots, a 21-year-old from Melbourne who’s made it through to the final 12 contestants, said it’s clear fear of being ostracised remains a big issue.
“What is it, 10 per cent of people? And look at how many players there are in the game,” Coots said, speculating that there must be closeted players in AFL.
“Obviously a lot of people are probably worried about their sexuality and how it’ll be perceived by their teammates,” Coots said.
This weekend the AFL will present it's first 'Pride Game' between St Kilda and Sydney. St Kilda players will wear rainbow jerseys, the Swans will wear rainbow-banded socks and umpires will sport rainbow flags.