RIO DE JANEIRO – As the Rio Olympics ended, the United States Olympic Committee celebrated its gold medals, its medal count and the continued domination of its athletes.
“But it was not perfect,” CEO Scott Blackmun said. “We had the one regretful incident with our swimmers.”
The shadow of LochteGate loomed over the victory lap by the USOC. Ryan Lochte claimed last Sunday that he had been robbed of his money at gunpoint by men impersonating police, along with USA swimmers Jimmy Feigen, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz. That the robbery didn’t include their cellphones or jewelry was one red flag. Lochte’s boastful “whatever” reaction on NBC to having “a gun pointed at his head” was another. Soon, a Rio police investigation was launched, inconsistencies in the stories had been found and the tale spun off into one of drunk swimming bros vandalizing a gas station bathroom and then paying money to make it go away.
Lochte was in the U.S. while the other swimmers were detained in Rio. Feigen was charged $10,800, a fine payable to a Brazilian charity under their laws, to earn the right to leave. Lochte was not charged in the matter.
While the USOC provided security, transportation and help with legal counsel for the swimmers stuck in Rio, Blackmun pushed back on the notion that Team USA tried to help any of them “flee.”
“We think we’ve ended up in the right place, as far as shining a light on what really happened there. Things that were said about the people of Rio just weren’t true,” said Blackmun, whose USOC had gone along with the swimmers’ version of the facts in its initial statements. “The way the facts that turned out, vandalism was involved. Once that came to light, we did include that in our statement.”
All four swimmers now are back in the United States. Lochte, in at least his third version of the story, regretted his previous misstatements in a television interview with Matt Lauer on Saturday.
“I over-exaggerated that story,” Lochte told NBC. “And if I had never done that, we wouldn’t be in this mess. … None of this would have happened. And it was my immature behavior.”
Blackmun said the USOC recognized that the swimmers have “clarified their stories” and “apologized” but that there could be more repercussions for a controversy that embarrassed Team USA.
“We are going to have further action on this when we get back to the U.S.,” he said. “The question of what the consequences are for the behavior is something our Games Administrative Board will take a look at.”
Blackmun called their actions regrettable.
“You’re representing your country, sport and movement, and you have to act in a way that makes us all proud,” he said. “They let down our athletes, they let down Americans and they really let down our hosts in Rio, who did such a wonderful job. We feel really badly about that.”
How badly, one assumes, will be reflected in the consequences for Ryan Lochte and the others.
More Olympics coverage:
Listen to Yahoo Sports’ Greg Wyshynski podcast from Rio on GRANDSTANDING, featuring a Ryan Lochte Controversy Edition with Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports and Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star!
Live from Rio: Ryan Lochte, international fugitive; the strange side of the Games: