After the gas station scandal in Rio, could Ryan Lochte still be considered a role model for you children? If given the opportunity, the four-time Olympic swimmer is certain he can turn himself into a swimming idol.
While speaking with NBC’s Matt Lauer in New York City, Lochte apologized for his role in the international scandal and asserted that he can, in fact, become a role model once again.
“If they give me this chance, I know I can turn this around and become that role model for little kids. I don’t want little kids to look at me for what I just did, for that one night. I don’t want that. I don’t want them to look at me as ‘he was the drunk frat boy’ or anything like that. I want to be a role model for those little kids.”
The 32-year-old Lochte made headlines after he alleged that he and three other American swimmers had been robbed at gunpoint in Rio. Initially, Ryan Lochte reported that he, Jimmy Feigen, Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger had been returning from a party at France House, located across town from the Olympic village, when the taxi they were riding in was side swiped. According to Lochte’s version of events, thieves imitating police appeared brandishing firearms and demanding money.
Swimmer Ryan Lochte says sorry to Brazilians over robbery claim https://t.co/4o87B3t2Jd
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) August 21, 2016
The swimmers did not initially file police reports, and the story first broke after Lochte’s mother mentioned it to the press.
After probing by the Brazilian authorities, however, the story unraveled, and it was alleged that Lochte had fabricated the story in an effort to hide poor behavior from officials at USA Swimming and the United States Olympic Committee.
According to reports, Lochte and his pals vandalized a bathroom at a gas station, and instead of being robbed at gunpoint, they were asked to pay for the damages to the bathroom. The security guards at the gas station reportedly used a gun to demand that the swimmers either pay for the damage or wait for police to show up. Eventually, Lochte and the three other swimmers handed over the money they had in their wallets and returned to the Olympic village.
— CBC Olympics (@CBCOlympics) August 21, 2016
The days since have seen the story turn into an international scandal, with the three other swimmers being detained in Brazil until the situation had been resolved, according to E! Online. Conger and Bentz were questioned as witnesses, but Feigen, who eventually filed what was deemed to be a false police report, was ordered to pay more than $10,000 to charity in order to return to the United States.
Ryan Lochte on Rio robbery: “I definitely had too much to drink that night” https://t.co/ICGGaz2A2U
— TIME.com (@TIME) August 21, 2016
By the time the three swimmers were taken into police custody, Lochte had already returned to the United States and was safely at home. The 32-year-old former Florida Gator has taken a lot of flak for leaving his teammates in Brazil to deal with what has been deemed his mess. Lochte addressed this in his emotional interview with Matt Lauer, saying that he was extremely embarrassed about the entire situation.
“I let my team down. I wanted to be there. I don’t want them to think that I left and left them dry…I’m just really sorry. I’m embarrassed for myself, my family, especially those guys, USA swimming, the whole Olympic games, everyone watching. I was just immature and I made a huge mistake. I took away from their accomplishments and I think that’s what hurts me the most is that everyone is just watching my immature antics and I’m just embarrassed.”
Before he sat down with Lauer, Lochte apologized for the scandal via Instagram, writing “It’s traumatic to be out with 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. “
In Rio, Lochte competed at his fourth Olympic Games and earned his 12th Olympic medal, making him the most decorated Olympic swimmer behind only Michael Phelps. While in Rio, Lochte earned gold as a member of the 4×200-meter freestyle relay.
Since his performance at the 2016 summer Olympic Games, Ryan Lochte has expressed interest in continuing to train and compete at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, though whether or not that could be a reality is in question in the wake of Lochte’s gas station scandal.
Do you think Ryan Lochte could become a role model for children given the opportunity? Do you think USA Swimming and the USOC should give Lochte an opportunity to qualify to compete at the 2020 Olympic Games? Why or why not?
[Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images]