I begin by saying that I have no empathy toward anybody who drinks too much and then uses his/her inebriated condition as an excuse for causing harm or damage to persons or property. None. Whatsoever. Therefore, if anybody expects me to be sympathetic to Ryan Lochte, get over it.
First there was Brock Turner, the 20-year-old Stanford student, Olympic hopeful, who raped a woman and blamed it on being drunk. His ‘apology’ constituted a rambling narrative about how ‘hard’ it was, being away from home for the first time, and used the ‘party culture’ and drinking as an excuse for his actions. He got off with a slap on the wrist, as the judge did not wish to ruin the boy’s chances at seeing his dream of being an Olympic swimmer shattered.
Now we have Ryan Lochte, a 12-time Olympic medalist, member of the U.S. Olympic swim team. His story goes like this:
“We got pulled over, in the taxi, and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge, no lights, no nothing just a police badge and they pulled us over … They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground — they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn’t do anything wrong, so — I’m not getting down on the ground. And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, ‘Get down,’ and I put my hands up, I was like ‘whatever.’ He took our money, he took my wallet — he left my cell phone, he left my credentials.”
Crime in Rio, especially against tourists, is a real concern, so his story might have gone unchecked, but the first sign of something amiss was when the group returned to the Olympic Village without any appearance of being upset, in fact, laughing and joking among themselves. Brazilian investigators have not found any evidence to support the swimmers’ claims, nor have they been able to find the taxicab driver whose cab was allegedly pulled over (the swimmers said they couldn’t remember the make or model of their taxi). By this time, Lochte had returned to the U.S. and then his story began to undergo changes.
Now, instead of being ‘pulled over’, they stopped at a gas station to use the restrooms when they were allegedly ‘robbed at gunpoint’, but now the ‘gunman’ did not put a gun to his head, but merely pointed it in his direction. It should be noted that filing a false police report is punishable in Brazil by up to six months in jail.
In the weeks leading up to the start of the Olympics, so many things were noted as potential problems: Zika, the doping scandal, body parts washing up on the beach, poor conditions of the Olympic Village, contaminated water, crime, unpreparedness, and the ever-lurking threat of terrorism. Thankfully, as we enter the last few days of the games, none of those have come to pass. But then came Lochte. The story continues …
According to Brazilian police, the swimmers went to the bathroom at the gas station. In the process, according to the account by investigators, damage was done to the bathroom door and a discussion ensued with the manager and a security guard. Someone at the gas station called the police, but by the time a police car arrived at the scene, the swimmers were gone. Witnesses, including a person who offered to translate for the swimmers, said that they paid money to the manager before leaving.
Lochte’s teammates, who initially supported his original story, have now told police that the robbery story was made up by Lochte. For his part, Lochte finally ‘apologized’. He said the episode was a misunderstanding — that a gun was pointed in his direction and he thought he was being mugged, and that he didn’t realize that the security guard or manager were asking him to pay for the damaged door.
“It’s traumatic to be out late with your friends in a foreign country — with a language barrier — and have a stranger point a gun at you and demand money. I should have been much more responsible in how I handled myself for that am sorry to my teammates, my fans, my fellow competitors, my sponsors, and hosts of the great event.”
His apology reeks of insincerity as much as did Brock’s and as much as did Donald Trump’s earlier this week. A humble apology? I do not think so. An embarrassment to the U.S. Olympic team and the United States as a nation? Absolutely. I did not buy Brock’s excuses nor his ‘apology’, and he is 20 years old. Lochte is 32 years old … halfway to retirement age, and still acting like a spoiled child!
USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus also offered an ‘apology’ that sounded like just more of the same ol’ same ol’ excuses: “The last five days have been difficult for our USA Swimming and United States Olympic families. . . . We do not condone the lapse in judgment and conduct that led us to this point. That this is drawing attention away from Team USA’s incredible accomplishments in the water and by other athletes across the Olympic Games is upsetting.” Lapse in judgement? No, sorry, but it was an outright LIE! A lie with no other purpose than that of keeping Mr. Lochte out of trouble with the IOC.
It is not important if Mr. Lochte has one medal, twelve medals or no medals. What is important about the Olympics is the spirit of the games, of teamwork, of each individual giving their all for the pride of their nation. Mr. Lochte blew all of that. He does not have my respect, and I do not imagine he has the respect of many outside his own family. If that. I expected … feared … that the biggest story of the 2016 Olympics would be a terrorist attack. I am thankful, of course, that it was not so … knock on wood. But instead, the story that will be remembered long after most have forgotten the names of Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Simone Biles and Kosuke Hagino are but a memory, will be that of Ryan Lochte and the scandal he perpetrated.