United States swimmer and Olympic champion Ryan Lochte is in a bad place right now. After claiming that he was robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro and then being caught vandalising a gas station along with this teammates, Lochte has become an international villain on social media. Sponsors have decided to distance themselves from the 32-year-old swimmer, ending their contracts. He is also going to face the International Olympic Committee's disciplinary commission over the matter. So how did the entire Ryan Lochte fiasco unfold? Let’s start from the beginning.
How did it all begin?
On August 14, a story surfaced about Lochte and three of his Olympic teammates being robbed at gunpoint after they left a party in Rio de Janeiro. Lochte said that he and his gold-medal-winning relay teammates Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen were heading back to the Olympic Village at night when their cab was stopped by armed men claiming to be cops. Lochte said the thugs took his money and wallet, but left his cell phone and credentials.
After the supposed incident, Olympic officials and Lochte’s coach initially denied that the swimmers were robbed, but the United States Olympic Committee later confirmed the robbery, with Lochte's mom also coming out in support of her son. Later, reports emerged that the swimmers were returning to the athletes’ village after a night out at the French Olympic team's hospitality house in the Rodrigo de Freitas area in the upscale south zone of the city. However, there was no evidence supporting the claim and that is when the police felt something was amiss.
With no evidence to back Lochte’s story, what exactly happened?
Police investigating the case said that the swimmers had instead in a drunken state vandalised a gas station bathroom, paying a security guard about $50 for the damage before leaving. The police found little evidence supporting the robbery at gun point story and said that the swimmers were unable to provide key details in police interviews. However, the gas station CCTV recording showed the swimmers kicking down a bathroom door and fighting with a security guard. They also tried, unsuccessfully, to use the locked toilet at a garage and urinated outside instead.
After the alleged robbery, the swimmers did not call the police, authorities said, and officers began investigating once they saw media reports in which Lochte's mother spoke about the robbery. Police interviewed Lochte and another swimmer, who said they had been intoxicated and could not describe the taxi they rode in or the location at which the robbery occurred. The swimmers also could not tell what time the events occurred. Lochte told a news agency that he and his teammates didn't initially tell the US Olympic officials about the robbery "because we were afraid we'd get in trouble".
Brazilian authorities were considering indicting Lochte and Feigen on charges of vandalism and giving misleading statements to police. However, all the swimmers left the country without any action being taken against them. Despite the evidence against him, including CCTV footage, Lochte has denied that he actually lied in his initial account to Brazilian police.
The aftermath of the lie
Lochte's behaviour has been met with disregard in the US and he has been widely criticised in international media. On August 19, the New York Post carried a front-page headline describing him as the "Ugly American", along with the slogan "Liar, Liar, Speedo on fire". Speedo was one of his biggest sponsors and that association was brought to an end after the Rio fiasco. Four sponsors in total have dropped Lochte, including American fashion label Ralph Lauren, skin care firm Syneron-Candela and Japanese mattress maker Airweave.
Ralph Lauren, which has removed some of Lochte's images from its website, said that its sponsorship of the swimmer had been only for the Rio Olympics and would not be renewed. Ralph Lauren and Airweave both stressed that they would continue to support of the US Olympic and Paralympic teams. Speedo said it would donate a $50,000 portion of Lochte's sponsorship fee to the charity Save The Children's Brazilian operation.
On August 19, Lochte apologised, saying he should have been more candid when he described what happened. “I want to apologise for my behaviour last weekend – for not being more careful and candid in how I described the events of that early morning and for my role in taking the focus away from the many athletes fulfilling their dreams of participating in the Olympics,” he wrote in a lengthy Instagram post. However, the IOC is considering disciplinary action against Lochte and his teammates for their involvement in a scandal that has shown the Olympics in bad light.