IOC to investigate US swimmers in robbery report fiasco
The International Olympic Committee has set up a disciplinary commission to investigate Ryan Lochte and the three other US swimmers involved in an altercation at a gas station in Rio de Janeiro last Sunday.
The commission will determine if the swimmers will face any punishment for the incident. Lochte said he and James Feigen, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz were robbed in the early morning hours of August 14 as they returned from a party. Brazilian authorities say the American swimmers actually vandalized a gas station and then got into an altercation with security guards there.
After taking a public pounding for initially reporting a robbery, Lochte apologized Friday on Instagram for “not being more careful and candid” in how he described the incident.
The 32-year old swimmer said he accepted responsibility for his role in it and had “learned some valuable lessons.”
NBC’s Matt Lauer interviewed Lochte Saturday morning, and the network said the segment would air later in the evening.
Endorsements: Will sponsors flee?
Even though Lochte has banked on his edgy image, the scandal could put a dent in the 12-time Olympic medalist’s current endorsements with Speedo, Airweave and Polo Ralph Lauren.
“I do think this going to have a lasting impact on Ryan Lochte, and it’s not going to be good,” Christine Brennan, CNN contributor and sports analyst, said Friday.
Sponsor Speedo is following the situation closely. The swimwear company released a statement saying that it has “a policy not to comment on ongoing legal investigations. We suggest you contact his team for additional information.”
The company Airweave, which has used Lochte to endorse its mattress brand, is standing by the swimmer, for now.
“We do not allow unlawful behavior and will continue to monitor the investigation closely. I respect the athletic performance of Ryan, and as long as he is a respectable athlete, he will remain a US ambassador for Airweave as long as our partnership agreement remains effective. Our focus is on supporting Team USA, and our hope is people will remain focused on cheering on the athletes who still have events to compete in,” said a statement from Airweave CEO Motokuni Takaoka.
The Airweave/Lochte partnership was already scheduled to end this year.
Clothing giant Ralph Lauren said it was working closely with the US Olympic Committee on the developments in Rio and is reviewing the situation.
“He’s certainly on the back end of his swimming career,” Brennan said. “I just cannot imagine any of these sponsors re-upping, if they decide to stay with him.”
Much speculation continues to swirl around the consequences the four US swimmers could face.
Drawing from sources with knowledge of the investigation, Brennan said she’s confident they will face disciplinary action as a result of their conduct.
“Ryan Lochte and all the other swimmers, I am sure will be suspended,” Brennan told CNN’s Anderson Cooper Friday night.
When asked for a comment, USA Swimming — the national governing body of competitive swimming — said, “USA Swimming will undergo a thorough review of the incident and determine any further actions, per our Code of Conduct.”
Charges dropped for charity donations
Conger and Bentz were pulled off a plane as they tried to leave Rio earlier this week, but were released after providing statements on the incident to Brazilian police.
Bentz, a University of Georgia student, followed in his teammate’s footsteps and apologized Friday to US officials, his teammates and his university.
“I regret this situation has drawn attention away from the Olympics, which have been hosted so incredibly well by Brazil and its citizens,” Bentz said.
Bentz emphasized that he was never a suspect in the case from the beginning and that Brazilian law enforcement officials saw him only as a witness. He said he “never made a false statement to anyone at any time.”
Before leaving Brazil, Feigen entered a plea bargain with police to avoid prosecution. Brazilian civil police dropped all charges in exchange for Feigen paying roughly $11,000 dollars to a Brazilian charity organization.
This is not the first time Olympians have gotten into hot water over a “lapses in judgment.”
At the 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea, swimmer Troy Dalbey and a teammate caused an international uproar when they took an $800 marble lion’s head statue from a hotel.
Like Lochte, Dalbey was harshly criticized after he apologized publicly for the prank he pulled.
No charges were filed but the swimmers were dropped from the squad and sent home.
Dalbey was later suspended by USA Swimming from national and international competition and team training camps for 18 months.
Australian athletes also had a few of their own run-ins with authorities at Rio 2016.
After a big night out in Copacabana, Australian swimmers Josh Palmer and Emma McKeon got a slap on the wrist for not returning to the Olympic Village before curfew after a night of drinking.
Banned from taking part in Monday’s closing ceremony, Palmer and McKeon are prohibited from leaving the Olympic Village between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. Team management also imposed a 2 a.m. curfew on all team members for the rest of the Games.
Several other Australian athletes were fined after using the wrong accreditation to enter a basketball arena where the nation’s team played Serbia in the Olympics semifinal, on Saturday. Brazilian police briefly detained the athletes and fined them $3,000 for “tampering with credentials.”
Making a rebound
The most decorated Olympian ever also made headlines of his own when he was caught driving under the influence in 2004.
Michael Phelps was found guilty and sentenced to 18 months of probation for his first DUI.
USA Swimming suspended the 25-time Olympic medalist for 6 months for his second DUI arrest, in 2014, and he wasn’t allowed to compete for the US at the world championships in 2015.
Phelps initially lost sponsors, but went on to win new ones after going to rehab and showing remorse for his actions.
But whether Lochte and the three other US Olympic swimmers will eventually bounce back from their current struggles like the golden boy of the Olympics remains to be seen.