However, the one that seemed to shock the world was Ryan Lochte’s claim that he and three team mates (Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and James Feigen) were held up, and a gun pointed at his head, by men impersonating police officers as they flashed badges and demanded money. He told this story to the international media, and in so doing, emphasized the perception of Rio’s reputation as a crime-ridden city. Even more shocking was the realization that the story was fabricated, and the foursome were actually intoxicated and were caught on video vandalizing a gas station, where a security guard pointed a gun at them to make them stop their hooliganism, and asked them to pay for the damages they had incurred.
As the story continue to unfold, it became quite clear that Lochte had fabricated his story, and by doing so, offended the entire country of Brazil. The story quickly spiralled out of control, and Lochte and his teammates were in serious trouble. While Lochte somehow made it back home to the States, the other three swimmers were detained in Brazil. The IOC was investigating the matter, and U.S.A. Swimming was deciding on whether to issues suspensions over the incident.
Five days after the initial incident, and two days after his teammates were interrogated by Brazilian officials and published their own apologies, Lochte and his management team finally released an apology on his Instagram account. Many felt the apology rang hollow and insincere. The outrage continued on social media and the next day Lochte appeared in an exclusive interview with Matt Lauer on NBC. His hair was dyed brown instead of the platinum blonde he sported during the Olympics, he wore a dress shirt, and his hair was combed over in a conservative style, a very different portrayal of the “party boy” image Lochte tends to favour. He was emotional as he spoke with Lauer about letting his team down. He accepted responsibility for the “over-exaggeration” of the story. The interview was recorded in English as well as Portugese, to be broadcast in Brazil. In the debrief following the interview on NBC, the American television hosts deconstructed the incident, and came to the conclusion that Lochte hadn’t really lied, he just told the story somewhat differently than what actually happened.
While their efforts may have helped sway public opinion in favour of the swimmer, it is hard to say whether it was enough to keep his career afloat. He has just lost his sponsorship with Speedo, and Ralph Lauren, and his other endorsements are at risk. The moral of the story? Just tell the truth. hc
Update: Since this post was written, Lochte has now lost all four of his sponsorships. What does the future hold for this fallen Olympian? Only time will tell.
What they did right:
Where they faltered: