By: Shane Embury
Ryan Lochte’s account of being robbed at gunpoint alongside three other USA Olympic swimmers in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, August 14, has been proven false by Brazilian police. Within three days of the case being made public, the police found valid evidence to determine that the swimmers were lying about the robbery. Now the four athletes have to face the repercussions.
On August 14, an interview with Lochte on NBC kickstarted the scandal. Lochte said he and fellow swimmers Gunnar Bentz, Jimmy Feigen and Jack Conger were riding in a taxi on the way back to the Olympic Village after departing the France Olympic team’s hospitality house. They were then pulled over by robbers posing as police officers, who took nothing but the swimmers’ wallets.
Brazilian police questioned the integrity of the story after certain details did not add up. On August 17, Conger and Bentz were escorted off of a plane that was about to leave Rio. The two of them were questioned, and the truth was finally exposed.
On the morning in question, the four swimmers had left a party at the France House and pulled into a gas station to use the restroom. They ultimately urinated on the back of the building instead, and Conger and Bentz both held that none of the swimmers had entered the restroom at any time, which disproved a previous police statement that the swimmers had broken a bathroom door and damaged a soap dispenser.
Conger and Bentz stated that Lochte had reportedly torn down a metal sign that was anchored to the wall. This action alerted the gas station’s two armed security guards who then confronted the Olympians. Lochte engaged in a heated verbal exchange with the guards, but no physical contact was ever made. A bystander then stopped to translate for the swimmers, helping to minimize the language barrier.
Bentz’s and Conger’s statements concluded with the declaration that the four swimmers paid $50 to cover the damage to the metal sign, and they left the gas station soon after.
“I feel like when you are in a position like being an Olympic athlete, it’s a big responsibility,” said HVA sophomore Hannah Selph. “You have to be vigilant in how you conduct yourself because there are children, women and men around the world looking up to you. I feel like these athletes dropped the ball. However, you can’t go and hate the athletes. We all make mistakes we wish we can take back. Some people’s are just on a more magnified scale than others.”
As of August 19, Bentz and Conger are safely back in the United States. The same day, Lochte took to social media to share an apology. He posted identical statements on both Twitter and Instagram, claiming responsibility for dramatizing the situation.
A court order had forced Feigen to remain in Rio. Breno Melaragno, his attorney, was interviewed on NBC and stated, “After a long deliberation, this agreement was reached. [Feigen] will donate 35,000 real [$10,000] to an institute, and with that the case is resolved. After this donation is done, his passport will be given back to him, and he will be free to return home.”
Feigen flew back to the United States on August 20. When he later released a statement, his story was in correlation with Conger’s and Bentz’s.
Lochte returned to his home in North Carolina on August 15. Despite being the first one to escape Brazil, his punishment is still catching up with him. Within six hours on August 22, all four of Lochte’s major sponsors dropped him. Speedo was first to cut ties with the Olympian, followed by Ralph Lauren, Airweave and Syneron Candela.
On August 23, the situation was reversed. Lochte was approached by Bobby Cohen, the founder of a tie company called Bobby Ties.
Cohen adamantly supported the swimmer, stating, “This is the United States. I think everyone, I mean everyone, deserves a second chance. I feel strongly about that. I hope they get back to me.”
Lochte has not yet responded to Cohen’s offer. However, on August 25, he did sign a deal with Pine Bros. Softish Throat Drops. He confirmed the deal with the cough drop company on Twitter.
Also on August 25, Brazilian police charged Lochte with the false police report of a crime. The swimmer has been summoned back to Rio, and he faces up to six months in prison. Lochte’s attorney has not made any public statements about the charges.
Regardless of Lochte’s potential return to Rio, he may be able to salvage his reputation when he competes on season 23 of “Dancing With the Stars.” The entire cast was revealed on August 30, and the show will be packed with Olympic athletes, singers and other celebrities. Season 23 of “Dancing With the Stars” premieres September 12 on ABC.