Police from Rio de Janeiro have today indicted U.S. Olympic swimmers Ryan Lochte and James Feigen on charges of false reporting of a crime, according to ABC News and Brazil’s O Globo. This came following yesterday’s news conference by Brazilian police stating that U.S. Olympic gold medal swimmer Ryan Lochte had made up a story that he and three other U.S. Olympic swimmers, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen had been robbed at gunpoint at a gas station after a night on the town in Rio.
Lochte, 32, is back in the U.S. while Feigen, 26, has been detained in Brazil while the investigation continues. After being pulled off a plane headed for the U.S., Bentz, 20, and Conger, 21, were questioned by the police and allowed to return to the U.S. Feigen has agreed to pay $11,000 to Brazilian charity Reaction Institute. to avoid prosecution and once the payment is made, his passport will be returned and he’ll be free to return to the U.S. There is no word on any potential punishment for Lochte at this time but this is considered a developing story – not all the I’s have been dotted and all the T’s crossed yet.
Four drunken, out-of-control guys on an all-night bender who damage property and then lie about being held up at gunpoint to cover it up may not be big news in your local town. But in Rio de Janeiro, where national pride in being the first South American country to host an Olympic Games is high and where beleaguered police and security forces have been under constant scrutiny questioning their ability to protect Olympic athletes, officials and fans, this is a national insult!
In the lead up to the Games, Brazil’s political strife, economic problems, crime and murder rates as well as its overwhelming pollution problems have been constantly put under the world’s microscope, leaving the country with a very raw nerve. And as the saying goes, U.S. Olympic swimmers Ryan Lochte, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen were rubbing it the wrong way.
As the real story of Lochte, Bentz, Conger and Feigen has finally come to light over the last few days, it brought back the “ugly Americans” moniker commonly assigned to U.S. citizens by host countries and their citizens the world over due to an overwhelming sense of entitlement and arrogant behavior on our part as Americans. Some of it can be due to misunderstandings in language and cultural norms. But more often than not, it’s due to our mindset that we’re free to think, do and say whatever we want without regard to how it affects others. In essence, it describes a total insensitivity to others who are different from us.
A 12-time Olympic medal winner, Lochte has apologized “for my behavior” but has never actually admitted that he lied about being robbed at gunpoint when interviewed on live television by NBC. While saying that his earlier description of events wasn’t accurate, he still insisted that a gun was pointed at him and was forced to hand over money. However, in sworn statements to Brazilian authorities, the other three said Lochte was out of control and needed to be calmed down. Money handed over was to repay for damages to the bathroom door and soap dispenser, and security guards held the men at gunpoint when they tried to escape before police arrived at the scene.
Lochte’s lack of truthfulness even in his apology (as is now evidenced by the security tape and in sworn statements by his three cohorts in crime) has done little to calm Brazilian outrage over the incident. Most Brazilians accuse Lochte of smearing their national reputation, an accusation that has generated an apology from U.S. Olympic officials.
His full apology can be read on his Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/p/BJSwyLJBoSH/?hl=en.
A full account of the incident itself can be read at the following link: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/20/sports/olympics/ryan-lochte-apology-rio-olympics.html?ribbon-ad-idx=2&rref=sports&module=Ribbon&version=context®ion=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Sports&pgtype=article
The buzz over this incident will soon recede into the background as news of the Paralympic Games beginning in Rio next month starts to take over. But the damage is lasting. The Paralympians will surely feel some of it from their now leery Rio hosts. The U.S. Olympic committee, Team USA athletes and men’s swimming will always be associated with it thanks to the internet where stories never die.
And these four men will always be linked to the incident, particularly Lochte who is the one who tried to cover it up by lying. At age 32 and supposedly ready to retire from a storied career as a swimmer who won 12 Olympic medals and his ongoing competition with legendary swimmer Michael Phelps, Lochte has shot himself in the foot for any future endorsements. Swimmers traditionally make money after the end of their careers by fat endorsements from companies wanting to be associated with winners. While gold medal Olympian diver Greg Louganis eventually got his picture on a Wheaties box this spring after being originally penalized for being gay, there will be no Wheaties box for Lochte. This drunken incident will be the memory he has left in the minds of the world – he has effectively forever ruined his reputation.
All this has brought to mind the wonderful book by Robert Fulghum’s No.1 New York Times Best Sellers, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” and if you haven’t read it, you really should. One of the things he wrote in this book is something that, sadly, wasn’t on the minds of the four men at that Rio gas station:
“Every person passing through this life will unknowingly leave something and take something away. Most of this “something” cannot be seen or heard or numbered or scientifically detected or counted. It’s what we leave in the minds of other people and what they leave in ours. Memory. The census doesn’t count it. Nothing counts without it.”
And here is Fulghum’s now famous list of things that we all should remember and apply to our everyday lives:
“These are the things I learned [in Kindergarten]:
1. Share everything.
2. Play fair.
3. Don’t hit people.
4. Put things back where you found them.
5. CLEAN UP YOUR OWN MESS.
6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
7. Say you’re SORRY when you HURT somebody.
8. Wash your hands before you eat.
10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
11. Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
12. Take a nap every afternoon.
13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
14. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
15. Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
16. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.”
And perhaps we should add No. 17 to Fulghum’s list – Always tell the truth.