Adam Peaty admits he has been in a “self-destructive spiral” but hopes he is coming out the other side as he chases more Olympic success.
The 28-year-old has been in a class of his own in sprint breaststroke events for nearly a decade but pulled out of the British Championships earlier this month citing mental health issues.
Peaty has spoken previously about periods of depression and problems with alcohol, which he admits worsened last year as he struggled with injury, motivation and the breakdown of his relationship with the mother of his young son.
He told the Times: “It’s been an incredibly lonely journey. The devil on my shoulder (says), ‘You’re missing out on life, you’re not good enough, you need a drink, you can’t have what you want, you can’t be happy’.
“I’ve been on a self-destructive spiral, which I don’t mind saying because I’m human. By saying it, I can start to find the answers.
“I got to a point in my career where I didn’t feel like myself – I didn’t feel happy swimming, I didn’t feel happy racing, my biggest love in the sport. I’ve had my hand hovering over a self-destruct button because if I don’t get the result that I want, I self-destruct.”
Peaty successfully defended his 100 metres breaststroke title at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 having earlier that year set a record for the fastest 20 times in history over the distance.
That relentless pursuit of perfection has taken its toll but Peaty insists he does want to chase a third straight 100m title in Paris next summer.
“Any sane person knows that 18 years doing the same thing is pretty much crazy,” he said. “Trying to find tiny margins year after year, trying to find 0.1 per cent.
“The dedication and sacrifice – weekends and all your time are spent chasing that goal for this one opportunity of Olympic glory. Once made sense, twice was a big ask, and was bigger last time round because that extra Covid year was really hard on all of us.
“A third one? It’s very bizarre that we do it, but I’m still here. The only reason that I took a step away from it for now, competitively, is because I don’t know why I’m still doing it, to be honest. I don’t know why I’m still fighting. The positive thing is that I noticed a ‘why’ there. I’m looking for the answer.”