Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o's girlfriend, who he believed had died from leukaemia, reportedly never existed.
The 21-year-old college player came under the spotlight after he inspired the Fighting Irish to a 20-3 victory over Michigan State just days after his grandmother passed away and his online girlfriend Lennay Kekua lost her battle with cancer.
It has now emerged via sports website Deadspin that the girlfriend in question never existed and that Te'o had been fooled by a friend and a pastor at a church in California, who reportedly created the online persona, according to USA Today.
In a statement, released by Te'o's representatives CAA, the linebacker said: "This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online.
"To realise that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating."
Te'o has been tipped to be picked in this year's NFL draft.