Sports star Te'o facing questions about 'fake dead girlfriend'
on 18/01/2013 08:08:38
The American football linebaker, who plays for the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, played a leading role in a crunch game just days after his girlfriend supposed died from leukaemia.
Now he and the university are facing questions over whether they were complicit in a hoax to mislead the public, perhaps to improve his chances of winning an award for the sport's best player.
It has emerged that Te'o perpetuated the heartbreaking story twice after he supposedly discovered his online girlfriend of three years never even existed.
He talked about his doomed love in an interview on December 8 and again in an interview published on December 10.
Yet he and the university said on Wednesday that he learned on December 6 that it was all a hoax - that not only was she not dead, she was not even real.
Te'o also lost his grandmother - for real - the same day his girlfriend supposedly died, and his role in leading Notre Dame to its best season in decades endeared him to fans and put him at the centre of the sport's biggest feel-good story of the year.
Gregg Doyel, national columnist for CBSSports.com, said: "Nothing about this story has been comprehensible, or logical, and that extends to what happens next.
"I cannot comprehend Manti Te'o saying anything that could make me believe he was a victim."
On Wednesday, Te'o and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said the player had been drawn into a virtual romance with a woman who used the fake name Lennay Kekua.
He was fooled into believing she died of leukaemia in September, and they said his only contact with the woman was via the internet and telephone.
However a newspaper reported in October that Te'o and Kekua first met, in person, in 2009, and that the two had also got together in Hawaii, where Te'o grew up.
Sports Illustrated posted a previously unpublished transcript of an interview with Te'o from September 23, during which he went into great detail about his relationship with Kekua and her physical ailments.
He also mentioned meeting her for the first time after a game in California.
"We met just, ummmm, just she knew my cousin. And kind of saw me there so. Just kind of regular," he told the magazine.
Te'o's agent, Tom Condon, said the athlete had no plans to make any public statements in Florida, where he is training with other young National Football League prospects.
Notre Dame said Te'o found out that Kekua was not a real person through a phone call he received at an awards ceremony in Orlando, Florida, on December 6. He told Notre Dame coaches about the situation on December 26.