April 29, 2016 / 7:37 AM / 3 years ago

Hackett says drink not drugs behind mile high meltdown

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian long distance swimming great Grant Hackett has admitted that binge drinking was behind his altercation with another passenger on a flight earlier this month and said he was seeking help to quit alcohol.

Olympic swimmer Grant Hackett of Australia speaks at a news conference at an event to unveil the new line of Speedo LZR Racer X swim suits in the Manhattan borough of New York City, December 15, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar

The 35-year-old former Olympic champion was spoken to by police after the incident on a flight from the Australian Olympic trials in Adelaide to Melbourne.

Hackett has admitted to a dependence on prescription drugs in the past but said on Friday that the incident on the plane had come after he had been drinking in the wake of his failure to secure a spot on the team for this year’s Rio Olympics.

“Illicit drugs are not an issue here. I get the prescription medication (inferences) from the history I have had, but certainly no. It was purely alcohol,” he told reporters on the Gold Coast.

“I will seek help. I have decided to get off the drink - I don’t want to see my life in this situation again.

“There is a deep sense of shame and regret for those it impacts and my kids are at the front of that line.”

The Queenslander denied reports he had tweaked the nipple of his fellow passenger in the row over the reclining of a seat.

“I can’t vouch for the person who is sitting ahead of me but everyone sitting around me has stated the same thing,” he added.

“If I did touch him inappropriately I am very sorry. I have spoken to the gentleman and apologized profusely.

“I’ve chatted with (him) several times and sorted it out and on a personal level everything is fine.”

Hackett won back-to-back Olympic 1,500 meters freestyle titles at the 2000 and 2004 Games as well as gold in the 4x200m freestyle relay in Athens.

Ten-times a world champion and former holder of a string of world records, he came out of a six-year retirement to compete in the relay at last year’s world championships.

In retrospect, Hackett said, he should have ended his comeback after he qualified to swim at Kazan.

“I came back for the love of it and the love was taken away when the attention came on board,” he said.

“A lot of the focus on my personal life and history came up. I found that emotionally extremely difficult to deal with. I really should have pulled myself out of the team.”

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Amlan Chakraborty

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