The heartbreaking story of a college football star who helped his team fight their way to the championship game after his girlfriend died of leukaemia has been unveiled as a hoax.
The story of linebacker Manti Te'o captured national attention and was described as "the inspiring story of the college football season".
The University of Notre Dame player helped his team to victory after his long-distance girlfriend Lennay Kekua - whom he met online - apparently suffered serious injuries in a car crash.
A few months later he was told she had leukaemia, and when he learned she had died he once again played on and helped his team clinch a win.
He even played on the day of her funeral, believing it was what she would have wanted.
His story captivated America, making him a hero with slots in Sports Illustrated and on CBS This Morning.
But the whole thing turned out to be a hoax - with Te'o himself the apparent victim.
Lennay Kekua never existed, and the picture on her Facebook page and Twitter account turned out to be of another woman.
Te'o never actually met her in person, just carrying out a long-distance relationship via social media and by phone.
The University of Notre Dame said someone using a fictitious name had "apparently ingratiated herself" with Te'o, then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had died of cancer.
The university said the "proper authorities" were now investigating a "very cruel deception" against the American football player.
Te'o issued a statement saying: "This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online.
"We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her.
"To realise that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating."
Notre Dame lost the BCS title game to Alabama 42-14 on January 7 - the team's only loss of the season.
Te'o, who graduated, is now preparing for the upcoming NFL combine and draft at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, this week.