Sports star Manti Te'o won sympathy across the US when he led his team to victory in a crucial game days after his girlfriend died of leukaemia.
So there was shock on Wednesday when it was revealed she never existed, and the American footballer was the victim of a cruel hoax.
The linebacker for the Notre Dame college team had said his loss inspired him in the 20-3 win over Michigan State.
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said his faith in Te'o had not been shaken.
He said an investigation by a firm the college hired had convinced him Te'o was duped into an online relationship with a woman whose death was then faked by those behind the hoax.