Image Credit: ESPNI
Tell me you’ve never told a lie and seen it blow up into a bigger lie you can no longer control, and well, I’ll call you a liar.
The difference between you and Ryan Lochte? You’re (presumably) just a normal person. He’s an Olympian representing the United States as one of the greatest American swimmers of all-time.
Which is why a lie Lochte told to his mother has become an international incident that has spun completely out of control in a matter of days.
Lochte is being made out to be some sort of monster by the country of Brazil and the International Olympic Committee. It’s a nice distraction from the rampant murder and crime in Rio de Janeiro, locals displaced by billions of dollars of construction the country couldn’t afford, a health crisis including a Zika virus epidemic, IOC corruption and feces-filled water that surrounds the international sporting competition.
But no, the biggest problem in Rio is Lochte.
This is not a scandal. It is not deserving of a -gate nickname. (Most things given one aren’t either, but I digress.)
It is an international story about an American idiot.
It’s a story about a guy who told acted immaturely and disrespectfully in a foreign land, tried to cover his tracks by telling his mother a dumb lie, found out his mom shared that lie with the media and compounded his moronic action by ignoring direction from the United States Olympic Committee and repeating the lie on camera instead of nipping it in the bud when he saw it was about to spiral out of control.
While the New York Post decided to call Lochte “The Ugly American” on its cover, the New York Times dug into Lochte’s claims, the gas station security footage and additional sources to figure out what actually happened during the night in question. Additionally, two of the swimmers involved have since released statements detailing the incident, and Lochte himself sat down with NBC’s Matt Lauer for a one-on-one interview in which Lauer completely ignores that a gun was involved in the incident.
I’ll break it down for you below, but let me preface by saying this: Lochte lied, just not about everything.
Story: Lochte claimed he and three American swimmers were returning from a party in a taxi cab when it was pulled over by men posing as Brazilian police. (Lochte changed this story prior to the aforementioned statements to note that the swimmers requested the taxi cab pull over at a gas station.)
Actual events: Lochte and three American swimmers were returning from a party in a taxi cab when they asked it to pull over at a gas station so they could urinate.
Result: Lie before he changed his story, truth afterward
Story: The Brazilians, posing as police with badges and guns but not uniforms, demanded the four men get down on the ground and give up their wallets and money.
Actual events: The four men urinated on the exterior of a gas station and were confronted by security guards — who were off-duty prison guards with badges — to use the facilities inside, only to vandalize the property by pulling a poster down off a wall
Result: Lie (except the part about the people having badges)
Story: One of the fake cops pointed a gun at the men on the ground and then put it at Lochte’s head when he refused to get down. (Lochte changed this story before the statements to note that the gun was pointed in his direction and not put to his head.)
Actual events: The guards at the gas station pointed a gun at the men. Lochte refused to get down and the gun was pointed in his direction.
Result: Truth after he changed his story
Story: The fake cops took the swimmers’ money and wallets while pointing a gun at them but did not take their cell phones and credentials.
Actual events: The guards took the swimmers’ money and possibly their wallets while pointing a gun at them but did not take their cell phones as credentials. Whether the money demand was straight extortion or an effort to recover something following the vandalism is unknown. Either way, someone with a gun and a badge, who was not a cop, forced the swimmers to pay him money at gunpoint.
So in the end, Lochte did not fabricate the end of the event itself but rather why and how it happened. The civil police chief for Rio called Lochte’s tale “a fantastical version” of the truth. That sounds about right.
Lochte has apologized for mischaracterizing events and being a distraction. He has apologized again for “over-exaggerating” the events. One swimmer gave an $11,000 donation to get his passport back (what’s that about?). The Americans are all home now.
This is really the only question that remains: Why lie about all of this in the first place? It must have been to avoid the embarrassment of explaining why Lochte did not have his money or wallet. Would you admit to urinating on the wall of a gas station, vandalizing a bathroom and then seemingly still being robbed or forced to turn over money because of it?
As much as some may want it to make it so, Lochte’s lie does not tarnish his athletic legacy. It most certainly doesn’t put a black eye on an Olympics that has more than its fair share for actual problems that will be discussed for decades as the IOC continues to receive criticism — and hopefully more — for the way it goes about its business and the conditions in which it allows these international sporting competitions to be run and held.
The real end result of all this is that the international community now knows what Americans have for years: Ryan Lochte is an idiot.
Minor updates were made to this column on Aug. 20 following Lochte’s one-on-one interview with NBC