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  1. ITV Report

Nigel Owens: Gay rugby referee asked to be castrated

Rugby referee Nigel Owens said he struggled to accept his homosexuality. Credit: David Davies/PA

World Cup referee Nigel Owens has spoken of his attempted suicide and how he asked a doctor for castration as he struggled to accept his homosexuality.

The rugby union match official told BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs that he was just 20 minutes from death when he realised that he could no longer live a lie. He came out publicly in 2007.

Speaking about his suicide attempt, he told radio presenter Kirsty Young: "I cried that night and realised, 'I need to grow up'.

Owens also described going to a doctor and saying: "l do not want to be gay. Can I get chemically castrated?"

He said he "would have done anything to be 'normal' in people's eyes".

Refereeing that World Cup final between Australia and New Zealand in front of 85,000 people and the millions of people watching at home, scrutinising every single decision you make under a huge amount of pressure, was nothing compared to the challenge of accepting who I was.

Accepting who I was then, saved my life.

– Nigel Owens
Owens received an MBE at Buckingham Palace last year. Credit: Stefan Rousseau / PA

Owens, 45, was born and raised in Carmarthenshire, Wales, but realising he was gay felt "totally alien" to him.

He eventually came out, at the age of 34, to his mother Mair but she had already guessed his secret.

He told Desert Island Discs: "I was brought up to be honest, and here I was lying to the most important person in my life. It was affecting my life.

"Unless you are happy with who you are, you cannot excel and be the best you can be at whatever you are doing. You cannot enjoy life if you are not happy within yourself."

He said his father, Geraint, found the idea of having a gay son "difficult at first", but added: "My love for him and his love for me has not changed one bit."

Owens also revealed his health struggles. He tried to lose weight and became bulimic but managed to stop when his mother became ill with cancer.

He said: "Here I am, healthy but making myself ill and suffering from bulimia when my mum and millions of other people across the world are fighting every day just for an extra few hours with their loved ones - that is when the bulimia stopped and, touch wood, I haven't suffered since then."