He's been accused of getting fat on hamburgers and the Holly-wood high life while frittering away his gold medal chances at the Beijing Olympics.
That sort of hype is exactly why super swimmer Ian Thorpe, one of Australia's most decorated and high-profile athletes, says he left Sydney to train in Los Angeles.
The public attention has become so intense, the 23-year-old Thorpe admits to thinking of retiring from competitive swimming almost daily.
Thorpe denies his diet is anything but wholesome or that he parties all night with celebrities like actor like Heath Ledger; claims he is training 40 hours a week and -- as for the persistent rumors that he is gay -- they're like water of a duck's back.
"It sounds like a real glamorous life in Hollywood, but really it's not," Thorpe says in an Australian cable television interview to be aired last night, adding that he wastes too much time having to avoid photographers who camp outside his house.
"I kind of hoped that I could have some privacy," he said in comments from the TV interview published by News Ltd. "There is really a line there that has been blatantly abused."
"You just ask the question, why is this happening? I really don't think I deserve it. It's just really upsetting," he said.
Thorpe was infuriated by a report in the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this month that read: "He munches on pizza and hamburgers and slurps cola. He hasn't been training. And Ian Thorpe, the five-time Olympic champion, is getting fat."
"I think my diet is about as perfect as one's diet can be," Thorpe countered. "I prepare everything myself. I go shopping for groceries. I buy organic ... it's a lot of work, a lot of effort."
"But I refuse to take vitamins and refuse to take supplements," he said.
He allows himself a hamburger once a week, and the occasional glass of red wine.
"I have the same [burger] every time," he says. "A double protein burger wrapped in lettuce leaves ... It's not the best thing to eat, but it's one of the allowances I give myself."
He thinks he's about 103kg to 104kg, but is confident of being back at racing weight of under 101kg within two months.
Thorpe says his lifestyle is not as exciting as people seem to think, although he does socialize with a cross-section of people.
"I'm not going to apologize for who my friends are or what they do," he said. "I know what I'm doing and I, kind of, at times wish my life was as exciting as people make it out to be."
As for the subject of his sexuality, Thorpe is beyond worrying.
"People will tell you black and blue that I am gay," he says. "There is no basis for what they are saying."