Ryan Lochte gets 10-month suspension for Rio incident
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — American swimmer Ryan Lochte will serve a 10-month suspension and will miss the 2017 National Championships for his role in a scandal at a Rio de Janeiro gas station during the 2016 Olympic Games, the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Swimming said Thursday.
That means the 12-time Olympic medalist will not compete in another world championship until summer 2019. He turns 35 on August 3 that year.
Lochte will also miss out on monthly stipends, “funding” for his gold medal and a White House visit, and he must serve 20 hours of community service.
Teammates Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and James Feigen will serve suspensions through the end of the year.
The suspensions by the United States Olympic Committee and US Swimming, the national governing body for the sport, were announced Thursday.
The gas-station episode, and Lochte’s “exaggerated” description of it later to newscasters, created an international hubbub and an embarrassment for Olympic officials.
Lochte, 32, initially said he and three other swimmers were the victims of a dramatic robbery when returning by taxi from a late-night party. He later backtracked after a police investigation found the swimmers were stopped by security guards at a gas station after committing an act of vandalism and paid approximately $50 in damages.
Bentz, Conger and Feigen have since publicly shared their version of the events with stories that differ from Lochte’s original tale and essentially match surveillance video released by Brazilian police.
Lochte has apologized for poor behavior at the Rio gas station on the morning of August 14. The group had stopped there to use the bathroom and, finding the door locked, urinated behind the building, during which time Lochte reputedly tore down a framed poster from the building’s wall.
Brazilian authorities have since charged Lochte with falsely reporting a crime, which could bring a fine or up to six months in jail. When his court hearing comes up, Lochte can opt to send a lawyer on his behalf and does not need to appear in court in Rio.
The police investigation began after Lochte had returned to the United States. The three other swimmers were blocked from leaving Brazil and one, Feigen, faced a Brazilian judge for his statements to police regarding the gas station incident.
He agreed to pay $10,800 to a charity to settle the case. Brazilian authorities brought no charges against Bentz or Conger.
Lochte has since taken responsibility publicly, saying the international Olympic scandal was his fault and caused by his “immature behavior.”
“I over-exaggerated that story and if I had never done that we wouldn’t be in this mess,” he told NBC’s Matt Lauer.
Lauer asked Lochte about using the word “victims” in a prior interview, when police have said the swimmers were vandals.
“It’s how you want to make it look like,” Lochte responded. “Whether you call it a robbery or whether you call it extortion or us paying just for the damages. We don’t know. All we know is there was a gun pointed in our direction and we were demanded to give money.”
The swimmer’s sponsorship deals have taken a hit since the incident, with Speedo, Polo Ralph Lauren, Gentle Hair Removal and mattress maker Airweave all saying they would be cutting ties with Lochte after the international incident.
However, he has gained new sponsorships from Pine Bros. cough drops and Robocopp, a crime prevention device maker.
“Just as Pine Bros. is forgiving to your throat, the company asks [the] public for a little forgiveness for an American swimming legend,” the company said in a statement.
He also scored a slot on Season 23 of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.”