By MICHELLE MARCHANTE
The U.S. Olympic Committee announced Sunday, Aug. 21 that “further action” will be taken against U.S. swimmer gold-medalist Ryan Lochte and three of his teammates after their robbery claim proved to be fabricated.
“We all understand that they let down our athletes. They let down Americans,” USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said to FoxNews. “And they really let down our hosts in Rio who did such a wonderful job and we feel very badly about that.”
While this scandal has distracted viewers from the games, Blackmun doesn’t think it should overshadow the U.S.A. team’s glory as they dominated the courts in every sport and won more medals then they’ve ever had before in any Olympic games.
Blackmun also confirmed to FoxNews that further disciplinary action against Lochte and the other involved swimmers will happen but didn’t want to get into specifics or- as FoxNews reports- if Lochte will ever be able to swim for the U.S. again.
“Ryan Lochte and all the other swimmers, I am sure will be suspended,” Christine Brennan, a sports analyst and CNN contributor said during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, claiming that she spoke with sources that were knowledgeable about what was going on in the investigation.
Brazilian police have debunked Lochte’s claim that he and his teammates were robbed at gunpoint in a gas station during their stay in Rio and instead accused them of vandalism.
According to police, surveillance videos and witness testimony’s show that the swimmers vandalized a gas station’s restroom and were then confronted by armed security guards who ordered them to pay for the damages they had caused before leaving the station.
This is a far cry from what Lochte’s statement on the incident was when he was originally interviewed, claiming that there had been a gun pressed to his forehead but Lochte later admitted Friday on social media that he should have been “more careful and candid” in how he “described the events of that early morning.”
Later, during an exclusive interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer, Lochte said that he “over-exaggerated the story” but didn’t want to admit it until he knew his teammates Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Felgen were back on U.S. soil.
Brazilian authorities had pulled Conger and Bentz off a plane as they had tried to leave Rio earlier this week, confiscating their passports until they provided statements for the investigation to Brazilian police. They were then later released and were able to take a plane back to Miami.
Felgen, on the other hand, had to pay about $11,000 dollars to Brazilian charities for the police to drop all charges against him and avoid prosecution for giving a false statement to police before being allowed to return to the States. Felgen and Lochte had been originally ordered by a Brazilian court to remain in the country until the investigation was finished but Lochte had already left to the U.S. by the time the court order was released.
“I left details out,” Lochte said. “That’s why I’m in this mess. I left certain things out and I over-exaggerated some parts of the story.”
During the interview, Lochte admitted that he never had a gun cocked to his head and wasn’t sure why he embellished that part of the story, mentioning that he was intoxicated but that intoxication “didn’t excuse his actions.”
“The gun was drawn but it wasn’t cocked at my forehead,” he said. “It was towards my general direction…and that’s when I put my hands up.”
Earlier in the week, Lochte was saying that he and his teammates were victims and lucky to be safe but Rio’s police are calling them vandals.
“They were not victims of the criminal actions that they claimed they were,” Rio Police Chief, Fernando Veloso, said to NBCNews. “They fabricated a story.” Veloso also denied that the guards used excessive force against Lochte and the other athletes.
According to Lochte, if they were victims or not depends on how you look at the incident.
“Whether you call it a robbery, whether you call it extortion, or us paying just for the damages, like, we don’t know,” Lochte said. “All we know is that there was a gun pointed in our direction and we were demanded to give money.”
Bentz’s statement to police mentioned that an English-speaking man walked up to them and told them that the guards wanted them to pay for the damages they caused or they would call the police.
Lochte said that they were all scared, intoxicated and all they knew was that “there was a gun pointed at them” and they had to “give up money” in order to leave.
During the interview, Lochte claimed full responsibility for what happened and that it was due to his “over-exaggerating,” “immature behavior,” and intoxication that this incident was spun out of control and his teammates were left to suffer in Rio.
“I let my team down…I’m sorry,” Lochte said.
USA Swimming is currently undergoing a review of the incident to determine what proper action will be taken against Lochte and his teammates as per their Code of Conduct.
Michelle Marchante is a guest contributor for The Buzz Insider and the Assistant Opinion Director at FIUSM. She is a writer, reader and filmmaking enthusiast. Currently, she is studying to get her degree in Broadcast Journalism and is also working on her second novel. Connect with her on Twitter @TweetMichelleM
Image retrieved from Flickr.