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Busking Brooks would put gold on the line to win back his reputation

Date

Allen Newton

The former Olympian says he has been forced to busk on the streets of London after reports of his business dealings made it impossible for him to find work.

The former Olympian says he has been forced to busk on the streets of London after reports of his business dealings made it impossible for him to find work.

"Mean Machine" Olympic gold medallist Neil Brooks is busking on the streets of London trying to earn a living.

Brooks, part of the 1980 Moscow Olympics gold medal-winning swimming relay team, went on to become a high- profile Channel Seven presenter before fleeing Australia with his wife Linda and son Levi and daughter Brooke, in September 2010, after multi-million dollar business deals collapsed amid claims and counter claims of fraud.

The perception of being a fraud - albeit not true - is really difficult to live with. It hangs over my head every day like the toxic cloud that it is. 

Brooks was attacked on the Gold Coast by two men and his business partner at the time and claimed his life had been threatened, forcing him to go into hiding, first in France and then in England.

A 17-year-old Neil Brooks (second from right) with his teammates after winning gold at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

A 17-year-old Neil Brooks (second from right) with his teammates after winning gold at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

The former swimmer is now preparing to visit Australia with plans to sue Channel Nine's A Current Affair for defamation over stories it ran on Brooks' business collapse.

Brooks said he is putting his Olympic gold, silver and bronze and four Commonwealth Games gold and silver medals up as surety to pay legal fees.

Speaking from London this week he said he was finding it impossible to get work because of media reports on his business dealings.

Neil Brooks says he lost a lucrative media career because of false accusations against him of financial impropriety.

Neil Brooks says he lost a lucrative media career because of false accusations against him of financial impropriety.

"Potential employers google us and we are snookered from the start because of the brutal stories done on us that pop up every time someone does a name check - total trial by media," Brooks said.

"We are so lucky to have some friends and family that have helped us and we literally live hand to mouth just waiting for the court case."

Brooks said it was unlikely he would return to live in Australia, at least for the foreseeable future.

As a sports commentator for Channel Seven in 1997. Click for more photos

Neil Brooks - fall of the Mean Machine

Busking Brooks would put gold on the line to win back his reputation. 

"I would love to live in Australia again, it will always be home, it hurts every day feeling like we can't come home because of a story that presented just one side of a really complex set of events and circumstances," he said.

"The perception of being a fraud - albeit not true - is really difficult to live with. It hangs over my head every day like the toxic cloud that it is.

"I won't come home until people know the truth."

Brooks doesn't shy away from suggestions that many of his problems throughout his media career were self-induced, much of it down to a battle with alcohol - a battle he now claims he has won.

"I totally have the booze under control," he said.

"There was a time when drinking was simply habit, but I lead a much healthier lifestyle now. I've started doing triathlon again and want to compete at the 2015 world championships in Adelaide for my age group, so I'm back training twice a day."

A major reason for Brooks' departure from Australia was because of fears for the safety of his family. He's less anxious now.

"Since leaving Australia in 2010, I've become an instructor in hand-to-hand combat specialising in knife and gun attacks and trained with guys that work with the CIA, Mossad and Secret Service," he said.

"I truly hope I never have to use what I've been training for day after day but better to be safe than sorry particularly for the family."

Brooks is keen to get back to Australia for his day in court against Channel Nine and A Current Affair.

"We want our story told and for the whole truth just to be out in the open - it's one of the few things that keeps me motivated and focused to see this ordeal through to the very end," he said.

"I am confident when the truth enters the public arena that some heads will roll. I am still disgusted after many years in the media, that they did not even give me the opportunity to do a sit down and present all of the evidence.

"I wanted nothing more than they afforded the same people that made the allegations. If they had the story would never have gone to air."

Brooks said that if it came to losing his medals to pay for the court case he wouldn't think twice about it.

"I'd give my medals away in a second, just so I can walk down the street and say 'Hi, I'm Neil Brooks', and not have people look at me like I have the plague," Brooks said.

"If I wasn't completely confident in our case and if anything Channel Nine said was actually true - I would put my hand up and I wouldn't be taking them to court and putting my life's sporting work and only possessions of value at risk."

Adding to the pressure on Brooks is the health of his wife Linda who had a double mastectomy last year.

"When we got the news she was losing 98 per cent of all breast tissue I was devastated for her and of course completely petrified at the thought of losing my soul mate after having lost mum to cancer when I was a teenager," he said.

"She [Linda] trains twice a day in the gym and is about to compete in her first body building competition just a couple of months after having had a double mastectomy.

"It does get a little embarrassing though when we meet new people and our four-year-old says 'Hi my name's Levi and my mummy has no boobies'."

Brooks said he was taking everything life threw at him in his stride and was looking towards a future in music.

"I've been a social musician most of my life, which was always just a bit of boozed up fun most of the time in pubs and clubs," he said.

"But now I take it really seriously and because I've had so much spare time over the last couple of years I've worked really hard on my guitar playing to get to a level where I can seriously put something to market and my song writing has started to really develop.

"I have certainly had some good material of recent times.

"Before the weather got too cold in the UK I was busking in town most days and making a few bob putting food on the table.

"Talk about self-discovery, one of the most amazing things I've done, more nervous than the Olympics. It gave me a complete respect for street performers.

"I had an Aussie bloke walk past me one day with a few of his mates they were back packing around Europe and he says: 'Hey mate do you know Khe Sahn by Chisel?'.

"They obviously didn't recognise me. They thought I was just a local geezer, so I said back to him in a cockney accent 'put five quid in me guitar case and I'll give it a go'.

"Easiest fiver ever made."

Brooks admitted that many of his problems throughout his career were down to his own reckless nature.

"I was always a flawed human being that generally came undone through not managing a serious drinking problem, particularly in my later swimming days and media career," he said.

"At the end of the day I can live with that but I'm not a fraud and I didn't steal $2 million.

"I can't and won't live with that and will sing from the rooftops until the truth is exposed.

"If I said I didn't care about people's perception of me I'd be lying because I do.

"We read the paper and watch the news like any family and it's like someone puts a knife through your chest. But I hold faith in that I can look back at my reflection every day and know that I am a good bloke.

"Unfortunately there are a certain amount of people who believe everything they read in the newspaper or hear on the news as gospel and therefore will always believe I am guilty.

"I have just had to remind myself that those people will only ever affect my life and state of mind if I let them. So I choose not to, I am rebuilding every day to give my kids a legacy to be proud of.

"But for the short term it's all about having our day in court so we can have exposure as well as closure to what's been a really difficult time for my family, friends and those close to us."

Neil Brooks autobiography In The Deep End will be released through Amazon on March 20.

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