by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
In his new autobiography, Twists and Turns, Australian 10-meter platform diver Matt Mitcham says he battled a methamphetamine addiction in 2011 that almost wrecked his career and his life.
In addition, Mitcham, one of only a handful of out gay Olympic athletes, revealed his battle with low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and repeated self-harm as a teenager, which helped begin his dependence on crystal meth.
Mitcham won the 10-meter gold medal at the Beijing Olympics, but was still ranked No. 2 internationally.
'I had still failed to achieve my childhood dream of becoming the best in the world at something,' Mitcham said in the book. So he turned to drugs.
'Taking it was something I did to take my mind off things that were upsetting me,' he said, admitting that he knew the dangers of crystal meth before taking the drug.
Mitcham said he used meth to 'make me feel better about myself.'
Methamphetamine is a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol and is taken orally, intranasally (i.e., by snorting), by needle injection, or by smoking, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. It is highly addictive.
Mitcham, who smoked the drug in a glass pipe similar to that used for crack cocaine, told Australia Nine Network's 60 Minutes, 'I certainly was addicted to crystal meth.'
Performance-wise, Mitcham's momentum remained strong. In early 2009, he scored new personal bests at local meets. But international competitions in Doha, Changzhou and Rome were less successful and shook his confidence. Still, he would win silver and gold at international meets in Mexico and Canada in 2010.
Things changed later that year when Tom Daley began to demolish Mitcham. At one point Daley scored perfect 10s to finish 29.2 points ahead of Mitcham and claim gold. Daley had beaten Mitcham in Rome the year before and the media swarmed to him. According to Mitcham, if journalists paid any attention to him it was usually to focus on the growing rivalry between the Aussie and the Brit.
A DOWNWARD SPIRAL
'Publicly, he was contending with physical injuries and a string of poor performances,' wrote Benjamin Law about Mitcham in 'Falling With Style,' an article in The Sydney Morning Herald. 'Privately, he was experiencing the psychological nightmare of clinical depression, compounded by serious drug abuse.'
Mitcham would smoke meth in the mornings before training, then again at lunchtime - usually in his car, out of sight from everyone, including his coach, manager, and boyfriend.
'Nobody suspected anything,' Mitcham recalled. 'I'd done such a good job of hiding it and maintaining my functionality, but it scared the shit out of me that I didn't have control.'
Mitcham has climbed back from last year's depths with the aid of Narcotics Anonymous, a drug rehabilitation clinic, hypnotherapy, and the support of his inner circle. Currently he is training for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.
'The answers continue to elude me,' writes a happier and healthier Mitcham, who is still in therapy. 'I may work it out one day.'
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