Scott Blackmun, U.S. Olympic Committee CEO has said that Ryan Lochte and his three U.S. teammates will face further action for the made up robbery story meant to cover their actions while at the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Clearly frustrated by this incident, Blackmun hasn’t given details of what sort of disciplinary action may be taken against the four. However, he did say that “They let down our athletes. They let down Americans.”
In what must be the biggest case of arrested development seen in recent times, Lochte said that he and his three companions were robbed at gunpoint when, in fact, they had vandalized a bathroom after an all-night drinking binge and were held by armed guards and asked to pay for the damage they had caused before being allowed to return to the Olympic Village.
Swimmer Gunnar Bentz, one of the four swimmers involved has already issued a statement regarding exactly what he claims happened early Sunday morning, the 14th at that gas station. Bentz offered an apology for their combined actions and also mentioned that he and Jack Conger never made false statements. Only Lochte and Jimmy Feigen were charged with giving false statements to the Brazilian authorities.
And finally, Lochte has come clean … sort of … and taken responsibility for the incident. Even though it’s clear from the video tape and the statements from Bentz and Conger that Lochte lied, all he will say is that he “exaggerated” what happened.
In an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer that aired on Saturday, however, he continued to play CYA by saying, “It’s how you want to make it look like. Whether you call it a robbery or whether you call it extortion or us just paying for the damages, we don’t know. All we know is that there was a gun pointed in our direction and we were demanded to give money.” Yet from that statement he went to say that he understood that he was being told that the four had to pay for the damage they had done or the police would be called.
People in foreign countries, particularly in poor countries, don’t have the same customs or expectations of behavior as do Americans. And in poor countries, people eke out an existence on absolutely the barest minimum. They don’t have disposable income for “luxuries” like insurance to cover vandalism. When stories prior to the start of the Olympics were highlighting the fact that the police stations didn’t have water or even money for toilet paper, that information should be part of the awareness training given to U.S. athletes prior to their spending expanded time in a foreign country with a foreign culture.
No – Lochte didn’t exaggerate; he lied! The group was out drinking all night long and he lied to cover up his stupid, sophomoric behavior in a host country that’s fraught with problems but intensely proud of its ability to host the Summer Games in spite of the difficulties by blaming Rio’s criminal element.
Although he’s said he hopes to continue competitive swimming and be part of USA Swimming, even competing in the Summer Games in Tokyo in 2020, Lochte has already been dropped by four of his major sponsors – Speedo, Polo Ralph Lauren, Gentle Hair Removal and the mattress maker Airweave. It remains to be seen whether or not he has made himself permanently “persona non grata” in the swimming community.