12-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte (32) and three U.S. swimmers Conger, Bentz and Feigen managed to cast a shadow over 2016 Olympic Games and the US victory in Rio.
The group reported to Brazilian police and freely shared in interviews with the media that they were robbed at a gun point – during a taxi ride – by men impersonating police officers. Lochte stated that he was in fear for his life…. All four blamed the circumstances – foreign country, foreign language, lack of security, etc. – for their ordeal.
Only after Brazilian police investigation introduced videos documenting their whereabouts and actions did the athletes admit the truth.
They were in fact confronted while in a taxi by a man brandishing a gun. The circumstances however were entirely different from those they initially reported.
The athletes were apparently drunk and caused significant property damage to a Brazilian gas station’s restroom. Having vandalized the property they attempted to escape without paying for the damage. There was no confusion. A volunteer translator facilitated the exchange between the drunken athletes and armed security guard employed by the gas station. He demanded they pay for the damage they caused. The security guard didn’t threaten anyone’s life. He threatened to report the incident to Brazilian authorities.
Instead of compensating the gas station for damages, APOLOGIZING and sleeping off their shenanigans, our guys concocted and reported to Brazilian police the story of a fictitious robbery.
The cowardly lie which eventually exposed the bunch for the vandals they were in this case reflected poorly on the entire American team, if not the Country. It stole the limelight from world-class athletes competing in the Olympic Games in Rio and generated anti-American feelings in Brazil and beyond.
Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo da Costa Paes said: “My feeling is one of pity, they did not represent the (other) American athletes that are here.” In spite of the Mayor’s generous comment, the unpleasant feelings linger.
Lochte came back to the States first thereby avoiding consequences in Brazil. Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger had to testify in Brazil before being allowed to return to the United States. The fourth participant in the lie, Jimmy Feigen made a payment of $10,800 in Brazil in a deal that allowed him to return home as well.
The Olympics might be over, but the scandal isn’t. Lochte and company might have to face consequences at home from USA Swimming AND the United States Olympic Committee. Lochte who won gold metal in Rio in a 4 x 200m freestyle relay race is likely to lose millions in anticipated commercial endorsements.
Lochte publicly apologized. It’s been said that he’s made a mistake. Drunk driving is a “mistake”, too. Still certain “mistakes” don’t go unpunished and intoxication isn’t a valid legal defense. Breaking the law is breaking the law. These four members of US swimming team have broken several laws: vandalism, filing a false police report, making false accusations as well as a bunch of unwritten rules: basic human decency, responsibility, accountability for one’s actions…. Their disgusting behavior embarrassed and disgraced America on International arena.
The lesson? Being on the Olympic team is an HONOR. Athletes competing in the Olympics represent their Country. The actions of Lochte and his friends – his numerous apologies not withstanding – didn’t represent American values or the United States well.
Anything L.A. Magazine’s Editor / E. Elrich