Gareth Thomas is a former Welsh rugby player. He represented Wales in both Rugby Union and Rugby League and was the player with the most caps in the country until being overtaken in 2011.
He came out as gay in 2009 following a divorce from his wife and childhood sweetheart Jemma in 2007, becoming Britain’s first openly gay rugby player.
Thomas, affectionately called “Alfie” because of his “likeness to the alien character in the TV sitcom “Alf,” struggled for years with his sexuality, telling how he was driven to suicide several times.
He told the Daily Mail in December 2009: ‘I was like a ticking bomb. I thought I could suppress it, shut it up in a dark corner of myself, but I couldn’t.
“It was who I was, and I just couldn’t avoid it. I had endured every emotion under the sun to deal with this.
“You wake up one morning thinking, ‘I can handle it. Everything is fine,’ and the next morning you don’t want anyone to see your face because you think if people look at you, they’ll know.’
Wales rugby legend Gareth Thomas pictured in October 2010
He continued: “At times I felt so alone and depressed. I’ve stood on so many cliff edges.
“I used to go to the cliffs overlooking the beach at our cottage in St Brides Major and just thought of jumping off and ending it all.”
The year after he came out, he was voted the most influential gay person in the UK and has since worked with multiple LGBT charities, among others.
Thomas is the youngest of three sons. His older brothers are Richard and Steven. His father Barry, 69, is a retired postman, and his mother Yvonne, 70, a former hospital secretary.
He started his sports career in 1994 with his native Bridgend and stayed there for three years. He made his debut for Wales the following year, representing his country until 2007.
With 100 appearances, he was the Welsh Rugby Union’s most capable player ever until 2011, when Stephen Jones took the accolade.
He played for Wales at the 2007 Rugby World Cup and played in four tournaments in total
The fullback was the second highest try-scorer for Wales, behind Shane Williams and captain for his country, and several club teams.
At club level, Thomas played for Bridgend, Cardiff RFC, Celtic Warriors, Cardiff Blues and France’s Toulouse.
During his stay in France, he was found guilty of assault in 2005. Two years later, he was banned from the competition for four weeks for misconduct.
While still playing in France, he suffered a major health concern after a neck injury. He was later rushed to hospital and suspected of having a stroke, with fears that the consequences to his health would have led to his retirement.
After marrying childhood sweetheart Jemma in 2002, the couple struggled with relationship issues.
Thomas said he “knew he was gay” when he was around 16 or 17, but didn’t accept it until years later.
He admitted to cheating on her several times and insisted that he always practiced safe sex when sleeping with men.
Thomas will be part of ITV’s broadcast team for the upcoming World Cup in Japan this month
The couple had been married for five years, during which time Jemma suffered three miscarriages. They broke up in 2007 and the divorce was finalized in 2009.
Thomas continued to play rugby until 2011 when he suffered a broken arm. After missing two months, he announced that he would retire from the sport in October of that year.
Since coming out in 2009, Thomas has worked for numerous charities, including ChildLine, the Terrance Higgins Trust and Stonewall.
He was an ITV rugby pundit at the 2011 and 2015 World Cups.
In January 2012, he entered the Celebrity Big Brother House, finishing in the final three.
A year later, he appeared on Dancing On Ice, when he teamed up with professional skater Robin Johnstone.
Thomas is pictured participating in Dancing On Ice in January 2013 along with his skate partner Robin Johnstone
This was around the time a movie about Thomas’s life was about to be made. Actor Tom Hardy was supposed to play Thomas, but the film later fell through.
His autobiography Proud was released in 2015, which gave disturbing details about his struggles with his sexuality.
In November 2018, he was attacked in Cardiff city center in a homophobic attack. He took to social media to share his ordeal and requested that South Wales police treat the 16-year-old suspect as restorative justice.
In September 2019, he became the first major British sports star to come out as HIV positive.
He said he has been living with the virus for “years” and also revealed that he has now remarried a man named Stephen, 56.
His husband does not have HIV and the couple lives in Bridgend, South Wales, with Stephen’s 23-year-old daughter Anna.