Hackett apologizes for "pure stupidity" in groping incident

GOLD COAST, Australia (AP) Two-time Olympic 1,500-meter freestyle champion Grant Hackett has publicly apologized for a drunken incident on a flight home from the Australian Olympic trials earlier this month, when he was accused of groping a male passenger who reclined the seat in front of him.

The 35-year-old Hackett admitted at a media conference on Friday that he'd been drinking before the flight - in the wake of his failed bid to make an Olympic comeback - and will seek help to quit drinking.

He said his career was tarnished by ''pure stupidity, making poor decisions at crucial times in my life'' and he felt ''a huge amount of regret.''

Hackett said he struggled being back in the public spotlight after six years away from competitive swimming, leading to ''unacceptable'' and ''embarrassing'' actions.

''I have to live with that. It is very difficult. A deep sense of shame, guilt, embarrassment, of regret, I am so sorry for my actions and the people it has impacted,'' he said.

The incident happened on April 17, when passenger complained to staff on the flight from Adelaide to Melbourne. Hackett was interviewed by Australian Federal Police when the plane landed in Melbourne and, although no charges resulted, the story dominated the front pages of newspapers across the country.

He won the Olympic 1,500 freestyle gold medals at the Sydney Games in 2000 and at Athens in 2004, held the world record in the event, and won 10 word championship gold medals, but his public profile has been dented by reports of previous troubles in his personal life.

Hackett traveled to the United States in 2014 to undergo treatment for a dependency on the sleeping medication Stilnox. His stint in rehabilitation followed the publication of a photograph of him partially nude and disoriented at a Melbourne hotel, searching for his young son.

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