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Ian Thorpe / AAP
SWIMMING superstar Ian Thorpe is out of the Commonwealth Games, announcing he will not recover from illness in time.
Related story Full story » Video: Thorpe discusses his disappointment

IAN Thorpe is out of the Commonwealth Games, announcing today he will not recover from a mystery illness in time to take his place on the Australia team.

Swimming Australia released the news in Sydney today, with a croaky and clearly unwell Thorpe adding his own words to a prepared statement from the sport's national governing body.

"It was difficult coming to the decision to not compete. But in the end it was a decision I had to come to," Thorpe said.

"It wouldn't have been a good performance by me if I did compete.

"I would have been of little, if any, benefit to the team.

"I've had bronchitis ... and because I've been so run down I've picked up other things as well... I have never taken so many tablets before.

"I would have done more damage than good if I had competed."

National head coach Alan Thompson said Thorpe had informed Swimming Australia and the Australian Commonwealth Games association of his intention to withdraw from the Commonwealth Games after a short training session last night.

Craig Stevens, initially left out of the team, has been called in as Thorpe's replacement and will swim the 400m and 1500m freestyle at the Games, which open next Wednesday night.

The swimmer who takes over Thorpe's 100m and 200m events will be decided in the next 48 hours.

Thorpe, Australia's most decorated Olympian, endured blood tests for glandular fever, whooping cough and chronic fatigue syndrome recently in an attempt to pinpoint exactly what has been affecting his health.

Any clarification on exactly what he is suffering from was not forthcoming today, and the true nature of his illness remains a complete mystery.

"All I know is that I have taken more pills than ever before in my life in an attempt to get over this," Thorpe said.

Thorpe revealed he had been training this week, but felt after a session last night that he was not going to be in andequate shape to compete to his full potential.

"It's not worthwhile being in that position," he said.

Thorpe had initially been diagnosed as having bronchitis and was until today thought to be on the road to recovery.

The coach of South Africa rival Ryk Neethling had even suggested yesterday that Thorpe was "faking" in order to gain a psychological edge ahead of the Games.

The clash between Neethling, teammate Roland Schoeman and Australia's Thorpe in the 100m freestyle had been built up as one of the highlights of the Games, but now the talk will be of the meet likely being a second-rate affair.

Thorpe's coach Tracey Menzies, who looks after Stevens, too, pulled out of the Australia team at the weekend because of health complications with her new baby, making it a tough week for all concerned.

"I have great faith in both my athletes and I'd just like to complement them on how they have handed themselves recently," Menzies said today.

Menzies said she had seen Thorpe swim worse than in recent days, but revealed this was the hardest she had seen him struggle during preparations for a major meet.

"None of our athletes like to get up there and give a half-hearted effort," she said.

"Ian likes to put in 100 per cent with what he does. It's been a hard time for him, as far as the past couple of weeks has been concerned."

Thorpe has been added to a growing list of high-profile withdrawals from the Games, including Olympic swimming team captain Grant Hackett, who is still recovering from a shoulder injury.

Thompson, though, refused to say it would damage the chances of the team.

"We talked about the opportunity for the young men coming through on the team and a lot of them will seize the opportunity that's been given to them by these guys (withdrawing).

"I'm still very confident."

However, there is no denying that the absence of the two stars will be huge for Australia.

Thorpe and Hackett have both won 10 Commonwealth gold medals, Thorpe grabbing four at the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Games and six at the 2002 Manchester Games.

Those 2002 Games in England could now be his last, since Thorpe has hinted strongly he will retire after the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

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