Graeme Obree, a two-time World Champion and hour record holder, has admitted the torment he faced as he came to terms with his sexuality, after revealing that he is gay to a British newspaper.
In an interview with the Scottish Sun newspaper published on Monday, Obree admitted that the anxiety associated with hiding the fact that he was gay had led to two separate attempts to take his own life, in 1998 and 2001.
“I was brought up by a war generation; they grew up when gay people were put in jail. Being homosexual was so unthinkable that you just wouldn’t be gay. I’d no inkling about anything, I just closed down,” Obree told the newspaper.
While Obree has only now made it public, he said he had come out to his family (he is now divorced from his wife) shortly after discussing the truth about his sexuality with a psychologist in 2005. He admitted that the revelation had been a particular shock for his parents, though the truth has had a positive impact upon his relationship with them.
“It was difficult and there were lots of tears. It wasn’t easy. But the relationship with my parents has been improved by it,” he said. “We talked about it and discussed things and we’re a lot happier.”
In 2001, it was revealed that Obree had been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. He told the Scottish Sun that his sexuality had also been a factor in attempts to take his own life.
“I was brought up thinking you’d be better dead than gay. I must have known I was gay and it was so unacceptable,” said the 45-year-old.
Both Obree’s private life and his achievements on the bike have combined to make him one of cycling’s most enigmatic figures. The Scotsman claimed the World individual pursuit title in 1993 and 1995 but is best known for his innovative and pioneering attempts at the World hour record.
He claimed the hour record twice, in 1993 and 1994. The first successful, in Norway, saw him best a nine-year-old record held by Italian Francesco Moser using a hand-made bike constructed from spare parts dubbed ‘Old Faithful’. That record lasted only a week as Englishman Chris Boardman improved on Obree’s effort in Bordeaux, France during a rest day of that year’s Tour de France.
Obree reclaimed the record in April, 1994 on the same track used by his English rival after making adaptations to ‘Old Faithful’. That record was improved upon by Spaniard Miguel Indurain five months later.
In 2009 Obree revealed that he was planning another attempt to improve on the hour record held by Ondrej Sosenka since 2005, but the plan was later scrapped.