Gareth Thomas ‘would not have revealed HIV diagnosis without press intrusion’

By Joe Gammie, PA

Former Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas has said that he “absolutely would not” have revealed his HIV diagnosis if a newspaper had not threatened to publish it.

The former Welsh captain also said that “tabloids will create their own law”, adding that he did not have the cash to fight them in court.

Thomas, who came out as gay in 2009, is thought to be the first UK sportsman to go public about living with the virus and has revealed that he was driven to suicidal thoughts as a result of his diagnosis.

His comments come the day after England cricketer Ben Stokes branded a front page story in The Sun newspaper about his family “utterly disgusting” and “the lowest form of journalism”.

When asked if he would have spoken about his HIV without press involvement, former British and Irish Lions captain Thomas told BBC Radio Wales: “I would love to sit here and say yes, but I’d be a hypocrite if I did.

“Absolutely not. It’s got nothing to do with anyone else.”

He added: “The tabloids will create their own law.

“You’ll send them a letter and all they’ll do is ignore it.

“I haven’t got the money to be able to fight a giant tabloid in court.

“When they do it they’ll somehow find justification for doing it.”

Thomas won 103 caps for Wales (Martin Rickett/PA)

Thomas, 45, revealed he had the virus on Saturday and vowed to “break the stigma” after blackmailers put him “through hell” threatening to expose his secret.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast on Wednesday, an emotional Thomas also criticised a journalist for telling his parents about his HIV diagnosis before he had told them.

He added: “They love me, they love me whatever.

“But you know I can never have that moment back to sit down with them and be able to explain to them why their son is going to be OK and is going to be able to live through this and live a normal, healthy life.

“That person came and took that moment away from me.”

Speaking to presenter Nicky Campbell, Thomas, 45, said: “Can you imagine someone coming to your door and saying something so personal and so intrusive to you about the thing and the person that you would love and protect through anything?

“I can’t, so I can’t really tell you.

“But what I can tell you is that I’ve got the best parents on the planet because to this day they stand by me and they believe in me and they believe in what I’m doing now.”

Thomas was speaking ahead of a documentary Gareth Thomas: HIV And Me on BBC One on Wednesday evening.

The former Cardiff Blues player won 103 caps and scored 41 tries for Wales between 1995 and 2007, and he is 13th on the all-time international test try-scoring list.

Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan told ITV’s Peston: “It’s not for Government ministers or Government to tell newspapers what to put on their front pages.

“We have a free, independent, vigorous press which I suspect all of your panellists and I and others have been the subject of at various points, and long may that last.

“But I think we can all empathise with Ben Stokes and his family, and Gareth Thomas and his family, and others, about being caught up in a situation like this and I think it must be very, very difficult to go through.”

On the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso), Ms Morgan said it depends on whether people complain to the regulator about these cases and how they are handled.

She added: “I will be watching, if that should happen, that very closely.”