polo games questions loom for Lochte
Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte apologized Friday for his behavior surrounding an incident at a Rio de Janeiro gas station, saying he should have been more “careful and candid” about how he described what happened after a night of partying with his teammates.
But he didn’t explain why he embellished details of an encounter with armed security guards and called it a robbery, and why he omitted that he and three teammates had vandalized a gas station restroom.
“It’s traumatic to be out late with your friends in a foreign country . and have a stranger point a gun at you and demand money to let you leave, but regardless of the behavior of anyone else that night, I should have been much more responsible in how I handled myself and for that am sorry,” Lochte said in a lengthy post on Instagram. “This was a situation that could and should have been avoided. I accept responsibility for my role in this happening and have learned some valuable lessons.”
The situation raises questions about the future for Lochte, who is planning to take time off from swimming but wants to return to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Known for his party boy image and love of the limelight, he now is facing a line of nervous sponsors, the possibility of legal charges in Brazil and sanctions from USA Swimming and the International Olympic Committee.
The IOC has established a disciplinary commission to investigate the incident. Olympians, who have dominated the medal count. Swimmers alone piled up 16 golds and 33 medals overall at the Games.
Lochte has always been about having fun. This is the guy who gleefully admitted eating McDonald’s three times a day while winning four medals at the 2008 Beijing Games. For Rio, he dyed his dark hair white, not realizing the pool’s chlorine would turn it light green.
“I think that is why I do so many different things with the hair, the grills, the crazy shoes,” he said in Rio, “It’s just my personality coming out there.”
Lochte’s success led to his own 2013 TV show called What Would Ryan Lochte Do? It had a short run and left some viewers with the impression that its star was nothing more than a good looking dim bulb. Still, lines for his autograph sessions at meets routinely stretch longer than anyone else’s.
As hard as he plays, Lochte works hard, too. male Olympians.
This time Lochte was only a small part of the show. He finished fifth in his only individual event and swam on the victorious 800 meter freestyle relay. Instead, the biggest memory of the 32 year old swimmer in Rio will be the grainy security video of him and teammates Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen exiting the gas station restroom and sitting on the ground, some with hands up.
Like other pro swimmers, Lochte is reliant on sponsors to foot his bills so he can focus on year round training and travel to meets without having to hold a regular job. His sponsors, including Speedo, Ralph Lauren and Airweave, have been in no hurry to cut ties with him, though have said they are monitoring the situation.
USA Swimming is expected to convene its executive board to discuss likely punishment, as it did when Phelps was arrested for a second DUI two years ago. The four could be fined, suspended or expelled. For Phelps, it was his third strike.
This is Lochte’s first major gaffe, and whatever sanctions the national governing body passes down could have little effect on the professional swimmer. He’s already said he plans to take the first extensive break of his career following the Olympics and move from North Carolina to California. But that would hardly impact Lochte should he decide to resume training for 2020.
As for the other three, Feigen has indicated he would retire after Rio and the 26 year old is looking forward to attending law school in Texas. He made a $10,800 payment to a Rio charity that teaches martial arts to poor children after the incident, then his passport was returned. He left Brazil Friday night.
Bentz and Conger stumbled just as they were getting started on the international stage, so the repercussions could linger longest with the Olympic rookies. They, along with Feigen, swam in preliminary heats and earned gold medals when their teammates won relays in the finals.
Bentz will be a 20 year old junior majoring in business at Georgia this fall and Conger will be a 21 year old senior majoring in corporate communication at Texas. They remain amateurs and presumably will continue their NCAA careers with their respective programs.