Ryan Lochte apologized on social media this morning “for not being more careful” in how he described the events at the gas station in Rio when he said he was robbed at gunpoint. Without rehashing the story once again, he only said that this was a traumatic experience for the four U.S. Olympic swimmers, while the Rio authorities insist that this story was all fabricated. Will the four gold-medal swimmers suffer any more consequences from this gas station encounter?
His lengthy tweet was full of apologies to the people of Rio all the way to IOC, his USA Swimming teammates, and the other Olympic athletes who are still participating in the international games. His humble words are certainly apologetic, but can this remove the tarnish of the ugly American feel of this entire incident?
“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 and for my role in taking the focus away from the many athletes fulfilling their dreams of participating in the Olympics. 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.”
“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 to let you leave, but regardless of the behavior of anyone else that night, I should have been much more responsible in how I handled myself and for that am sorry to my teammates, my fans, my fellow competitors, my sponsors, and the hosts of this great event. I am very proud to represent my country in Olympic competition and this was a situation that could and should have been avoided. I accept responsibility for my role in this happening and have learned some valuable lessons.”
“I am grateful for my USA Swimming teammates and the USOC, and appreciate all of the efforts of the IOC, the Rio ’16 Host Committee, and the people of Brazil who welcomed us to Rio and worked so hard to make sure that these Olympic Games provided a lifetime of great new memories.”
“There has already been too much said and too many valuable resources dedicated to what happened last weekend, so i Hope we spend our time celebrating the great stories and performances of these Games and look ahead to celebrating future successes.”
What actually happened? According to The Guardian, originally, Ryan Lochte, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger, and Jimmy Feigen, all Olympians representing the United States, claimed that they were riding back to their accommodations in Rio after a party at France House where they had attended an organized Olympic party. The athletes then claimed that they were pulled over by men disguised as police officers and were all robbed at gunpoint. Ryan Lochte had the most dramatic story, stating that one of the armed robbers put his gun to Lochte’s head before taking his wallet and money. This chilling story stole headlines from competing athletes and further solidified Rio as an unsafe place for travelers.
However, it appears that something totally different took place. Something very unworthy of the moral standards of an Olympian actually occurred. Fernando Veloso, chief of Rio’s civil police has announced that the athletes were not the victims of crime, but instead, acted like hooligans in his country.
“It seems that they lied. No robbery was committed against these athletes. They were not victims of the crimes they claimed.”
Veloso explained that all four U.S. athletes had stopped at a gas station and departed from their taxi. Then one of the swimmers took down the door of the bathroom. The police chief explained that they discovered that a mirror and soap dispenser were both damaged from this occurrence.
The antagonistic athletes were then stopped by security officers at the gas station and were questioned about this damage. The quad squad continued to be contentious prompting one security officer to pull out his gun. The athletes handed over a combo of American dollars and Brazilian reais totaling just under $35 USD to pay for the damage to the bathroom. Veloso insists that there was in no way that the athletes could have misunderstood this brush with the law as being any sort of robbery.
Speaking to People, one witness, Bruna Castro-Ruiz, saw much of what occurred. This syncs up with what Veloso says occurred. The woman became of aware of the situation when the quartet of swimmers came out of the bathroom.
“I saw when they came out from the bathroom. They got in the car and the people who work there were yelling, ‘Stop, stop.’ But they were not paying attention to them, and they were just heading to the taxi.”
Although she did not say that she witnessed the bathroom door being knocked down, she did observe what actually occurred. She did not mention if these athletes appeared drunk.
“They got in the taxi, and people were still saying, ‘Stop. You owe us money. You owe us money.’ They didn’t even turn their heads to listen. The workers were trying to talk to them about paying for the things they broke and they didn’t want to listen.”
Then, instead of the US team members paying for the damage they caused, the ugly American came out and they announced to the security guards not only that they were Americans, but that they were Olympians and that “America would be mad” if they heard that this occurred.
“Then they got out of the taxi and were saying they weren’t going to pay for the things they broke. One of them said that they hadn’t done nothing wrong, and that the gas station was trying to get money from Americans. He said that they were in the Olympics and that they hadn’t done anything wrong. I don’t know his name. He said that if they went to jail, that America would be mad.”
The situation has become such an international disaster and has tarnished the image of the United States that the USOC has formally apologized.
“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.”
James Feign has now been able to leave Rio, after donating nearly $11,000 to the Reaction Institute. This is a sports program for at-risk youth. Now the athlete’s passport has been returned and he is able to return to the United States and Lochte has apologized via Twitter. The question is whether the USOC will require anything more from the athletes.
Swimming World posted this statement from United States Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun that was released Thursday evening that indicates that this situations is far from over.
“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. We will further review the matter, and any potential consequences for the athletes, when we return to the United States.
“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.
“With three days remaining in the Olympic Games, our primary focus will remain on supporting the athletes who are still competing and celebrating the achievements of those who have finished.”
Do you think the Twitter apology was enough? Do you think that this incident tarnished the American image?
[Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images]