Plagued by ill health and depression, Kiwi athletics icon Jack Lovelock committed suicide by throwing himself into the path of a New York subway train.
Or did he?
A new book says Lovelock's death was actually accidental, possibly caused by poor eyesight or even impatience.
And it dismisses the myth Lovelock took his own life, saying such claims should be "retired permanently".
Auckland scientist Dr Graeme Woodfield, author of Jack Lovelock, Athlete and Doctor, said the book would dispel the myth that Lovelock took his own life.
"There's a whole lot of myths surrounding him - about suicide and depression. He did have problems but no more than what other people have."
Lovelock died in 1949, 13 years after he won the gold medal at the Berlin Olympics, racing to a world-record time in the 1500m in front of Adolf Hitler.
In a chapter called "Accident or Suicide?" Dr Woodfield, 72, writes that Lovelock must have been a "master of disguise" if he was depressive and thinks his judgment was impaired by the side-effects of a drug he had taken for a flu-like illness, and maybe by dizziness as he teetered dangerously close to the edge of the subway platform.
"Too much attention has focused on the suicide possibility just because he died in front of a train. My overall opinion is that it was an unpleasant accident.
"There's no evidence to support suicide - he was on a roll, there was no sense of self-mutilation. He also had access to drugs, so if he was to commit suicide he could have done it in a far less traumatic way."
"I think [Lovelock's wife] Cynthia was quite upset that people thought he killed himself ... she was offended by that."
It was because Lovelock remained such an enigma with New Zealanders that Dr Woodfield decided to write the book.
He took three years to research and write it, travelling in Lovelock's footsteps to Britain and the United States, meeting his daughter and visiting the places where he had worked.
"I started with an open mind. I wanted to know what happened to him."
He also visited the Church Avenue subway station and stood in the spot Lovelock was killed.
"It was a very moving experience. It was quite dramatic to stand in the exact spot he died."
He doesn't believe New Zealanders are fully aware of the stardom Lovelock had, especially in Britain, where he spent time getting British soldiers into shape for the battlefield.
"He was as popular in the 1930s as a pop star is today. He turned heads in theatres."
The book is Dr Woodfield's first, although he's written many scientific papers.
At the moment he is partly retired but still works at the University of Auckland as an associate professor of molecular medicine and pathology.
"It's a moving scientific field that will transform medicine," he said.
This week, Dr Woodfield left for England where he will spend the next four weeks researching his next book, a biography on former Governor-General Sir Arthur Porritt (later Baron Porritt).
"I think we need to know a good deal more about our heroes."
* Jack Lovelock, Athlete and Doctor, published by Trio Books, is available now. RRP: $29.95