Summer 2016 brought the world to Brazil as many nations competed for glory in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The Olympics are always surrounded with some form of controversy, usually regarding the city or country they’re in and the economic or ecological capabilities of the home country. However, at the end of the Olympics in Rio, the United States was hit with more controversy as Ryan Lochte, one of Team America’s swimmers, told the story of how he was robbed coming out of a gas station in Rio. 32-year-old Lochte holds 12 total medals, including six gold medals, in his Olympic career, making him the second highest medal-earning swimmer behind Michael Phelps.
According to Lochte, he and three other swimmers, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and James Feigen, had stopped by a gas station in order to use the bathroom. When they came out of the station, they were robbed by men disguised as security guards toting guns. While many Americans were initially outraged about the treatment of their celebrity in a foreign country, news soon surfaced that the Brazilian government was actually behind the action. Reports surfaced that Lochte wasn’t held up by robbers, but rather security guards demanding that Lochte pay for “damages” that had incurred in the station.
This second version of the story turned out to be true, that the swimmers had vandalized property in the gas station and that the authorities were just trying to get the damages repaired. Since this news surfaced, Lochte has been under constant scrutiny by the American media. He’s interviewed with multiple sources, including Matt Lauer. During this interview, when Lauer asked him about the incident, Lochte responded, “Whether you call it a robbery or whether you call it extortion or us paying just for the damages, we don’t know. All we know is there was a gun pointed in our direction and we were demanded to give money.”
Because of the altercation and the fallout surrounding it, actions have been taken against the swimmers involved in the event. Feigen was forced to pay $10,800 to a local Brazilian charity before he had his passport returned and was allowed to leave the country. Lochte faced issues with many of his sponsors including big names such as Speedo and Polo Ralph Lauren who both dropped their sponsorships with the swimmer as well as a few others. Lochte publicly apologized multiple times, saying that he “over-exaggerated,” and was “110% sorry.”
The future of the swimmer is unknown, as, at 32, this could likely be his last Olympic outing. Regarding the matter, the USOC and USA Swimming released a statement saying, “The behavior of these athletes is not acceptable, nor does it represent the values of Team USA or the conduct of the vast majority of its members.” They further apologized to Brazil in their statement saying, “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.” The uncertainty is there, but hopefully the drama and new reports regarding this event will come to a close soon, but make sure to stay tuned in the meantime to keep up-to-date and learn more about Lochte and the rest of the swimmers who stirred the waters of controversy.