Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Ryan Lochte apologizes, but sticks with robbery claim

in Sports by

What in the name of Ryan Lochte is going on?  It depends upon whom you ask.

The former Gator is swimming in controversy. Too bad it’s not coming from the pool.

By now most have heard the story, or at least portions of it. Lochte and Olympic teammates Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen headed into Rio for a night of heavy drinking after the swimming competition had concluded.

Lochte told NBC the group was robbed by armed gunmen posing as police officers. He told the horrifying story of having a gun placed on his forehead with the hammer cocked.

As new details emerged, Lochte altered his story to say the gun was pointed at him during a stop at a gas station and the four could not leave until they paid for any damage done to the men’s bathroom.

Brazilian police now say the story was “fabricated.”

“No robbery was committed against these athletes,” announced Fernando Veloso, chief of the Rio de Janeiro police investigative division. “They were not victims of the crimes they claimed.”

As the story intensified, Bentz, Conger and Feigen were detained after Lochte was already back in the U.S. After an agreement that included donating more than $10,000 to a Brazilian charity, all four have either returned or are on their way back home.

Despite contradicting many details of Lochte’s account, one small foundation of truth remains. They maintain at least one gun was pointed at them by security guards at the gas station.

Now comes TMZ, who points out the security video at the gas station has been edited, with more than two minutes and 30 seconds removed. The swimmers say they were indeed taken out of a cab at gunpoint, but that activity was in the footage that was removed.

When the video resumes after the gap, one of the swimmers can be seen holding his hands up. It can safely be assumed at least one of the guards was pointing a gun at them.

According to the TMZ report, the other three swimmers claim they are not part of a cover-up and have not admitted the story surrounding the incident is a lie.

This is not an amusing sideshow in Brazil. The police treated this like a major crime.

Some in the American media, like USA Today columnist Nancy Armour, believe much of the energy directed toward this case would have been better spent on real crime. While devoting enormous resources to respond to Lochte, she offered, real bad guys did much more damage.

“How many people were killed since Sunday?” she wrote. “How many more were victims of violent crime?”

It should be made clear that Armour was with those of us who have plenty of criticism for Lochte. Those who have followed his career know that he has a knack for, to be kind, flamboyance.

This time his actions have put the entire U.S. Olympic team in a bad light. The chief executive of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), Scott Blackmun, apologized on behalf of the entire U.S. contingent.

“On behalf of the United States Olympic Committee, we apologize to our hosts in Rio and the people of Brazil for this distracting ordeal in the midst of what should rightly be a celebration of excellence,” he said.

On Friday morning, it was Lochte’s turn, tweeting an apology for what happened.

“I want to apologize for my behavior last weekend — for not being more careful and candid in how I described the events of that early morning …,” he wrote. “I waited to share these thoughts until it was confirmed that the legal situation was addressed and it was clear that my teammates would be arriving home safely.”

He then stuck with the robbery angle.

“It’s traumatic to … have a stranger point a gun at you and demand money to let you leave.” He then apologized to nearly everyone who had anything to do with the Rio Olympics.

Will this end it? Lochte might lose a sponsor or two, but unless the Brazilian authorities want to answer questions about doctored videos and gun-wielding security guards, this story will fade away.

 

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

Latest from Sports

Go to Top