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Meltdown in Rio: Ryan Lochte

The Timeline:

August 14, 2016 [9:27 a.m.] BREAKING NEWS: Gold medalist Ryan Lochte and three other U.S. swimmers are reportedly held up at gunpoint after a party in Brazil.

August 14, 2016 [5:57 p.m.] After reports of story being fabricated, Lochte tweets a statement reiterating the story was indeed true.

August 17, 2016 [10:34 a.m.] A Brazilian judge orders the swimmers’ passports to be seized to prevent them from leaving the country. Lochte had already arrived back home one day prior.

August 18, 2016 [5:45 p.m.] Lochte and James Feigen are indicted for falsely reporting a crime after video surfaces of the swimmers at a gas station in which they were not held up.

The Response:
Initially, the response to the incident was poor, at best. Lochte stuck to his story for almost four full days, lying on social media and in television interviews to family, friends, teammates and fans. Days later, Lochte sat down with Matt Lauer to discuss the incident in a bit more emotional manner, but still used alcohol and lack of memory as a crutch to his story. He admitted guilt by acknowledging his exaggeration of the incident, but never fully conceded that the swimmers weren’t robbed. He apologized to teammates, fans and the city of Rio with tears in his eyes and used words like embarrassed, ashamed and I’m sorry. His interview was unscripted and remorseful, but was it genuine? It was, eventually, but only when Lauer shaped his thinking and practically pulled it out of him.

The Aftermath:
Although the 32-year-old is at the tail end of his swimming career, this incident still has some very serious repercussions. Aside from the public humiliation and shame Lochte brought on himself, his family and his country, he has lost his top four sponsors, including Speedo and Ralph Lauren, surely causing his $3 million net worth to take a hit. He also must consider how close he will be able to remain to the Olympic team and the sport of swimming moving forward. Whether it be as a coach, analyst, or other industry-related position, Lochte has bridges to rebuild before his trust and reputation are restored in the swimming world and the court of public opinion. The stands in Rio were swarmed with anti-Lochte signs during the closing ceremonies, including one very recognizable image:

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Reputation after Swimming:
As was the case with Brian Williams, Ray Rice, Pete Rose, and so on, the bad news for Lochte is that he will forever be associated with this incident. The good news is that America has proven to be a forgiving society, and with Lochte admitting fault, he can now work on turning short-term adversity into long-term advantage. We see many former professional athletes turn analyst/reporter, covering future events they once excelled in. We hope one of the most decorated Olympians of all time can take the steps needed to repair what is broken and remain close to future Olympic swimmers in 2020 and beyond shall he not return to the sport as a competitor. If not, there is always acting – just kidding.

 

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