'Appalling and inexcusable': Footy great's HIV revelation takes sickening twist

Former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas has broken down in tears on UK TV revealing how a newspaper blackmailed him into coming clean about his HIV diagnosis.

The 45-year-old revealed at the weekend that he had been blackmailed prior to publicly announcing he had HIV.

Thomas, who completed a 140-mile Ironman triathlon on Sunday, hopes to remove some of the stigma over the disease in a BBC documentary to be aired on Wednesday.

However, he said he felt forced into a corner after a journalist told his parents of his condition before he did.

Gareth Thomas said he was blackmailed by the media. Image: BBC

"I would love to sit here and say yes, but I'd be a hypocrite if I did,” said Thomas when asked if he would have gone public without the intrusion into his private life.

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

"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."

Gareth Thomas in action for the British and Irish Lions in 2005. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Questions asked about UK press

Thomas's 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".

Both stories have revived the debate surrounding British press ethics.

"The tabloids will create their own law," added Thomas.

"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."

Thomas, who retired from professional rugby in 2011, said living with HIV has little impact on his day-to-day life given the advances in medicine other than taking a single pill every day and visiting the hospital for blood tests every six months.