Could Ryan Lochte Be Banned From U.S. Swimming? It's A Definite Possibility
The curious case of the Ryan Lochte robbery is still unfolding in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. Just this week, the Olympic swimmer claimed that he, along with three other American athletes, were robbed at gunpoint over the weekend. The latest update in this strange case: An alleged Brazilian police officer with direct knowledge of the investigation spoke anonymously to the Associated Press on Thursday because he was reportedly not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing inquiry. The anonymous source stated that the gold medal athlete may have allegedly fabricated his story about being robbed. If this is true, then Lochte could potentially be banned from U.S. Swimming.
The official stated that around 6 a.m. local time on Sunday, Lochte, along with his fellow swimmers Jack Conger, Gunnar Bentz, and Jimmy Feigen, made a stop at gas station in Barra da Tijuca, a Rio suburb where many of the Olympic venues and activities were located. The swimmers allegedly broke a bathroom door at the gas station and were then confronted by a security guard carrying a pistol. Lochte claimed the gun was pointed at him, however, the anonymous source claimed the guard never aimed it at the swimmers. The gas station manager then arrived and reportedly requested that the swimmers pay for the damage to his business. According to the official, the swimmers paid the manager an unknown amount of money and then left.
Lochte's lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Conger and Bentz, two of the swimmers present for the incident, were pulled off a plane going back to the United States late Wednesday night. The official told the AP that both swimmers reportedly admitted to the robbery story being fabricated. According to officials, Lochte had reportedly first lied about the incident to his mother, Ileana Lochte, who spoke about it with reporters. This led to story being picked up by mainstream media, the buzz surrounding the story attracting police attention.
The whole situation is undoubtedly very strange and continues to puzzle many even as the facts begin to unfold. You might still be wondering how an alleged lie told by Lochte could get him suspended from Team USA. The basic gist is this: If Lochte did indeed fabricate the story, Lochte's alleged lie would violate USA Swimming's code of conduct, which prohibits both dishonesty and fraud. And that would be it.
All four swimmers could certainly face punishment for any alleged fabrication, including probation, suspension, a fine, or even expulsion from the sport. So far, there has been no official comment from USA Swimming on whether or not the Olympic athletes will be punished.
A spokesman for the Rio organizers, Mario Andrada, supports letting Lochte and his fellow swimmers off the hook for the alleged events of Sunday morning. After the story first broke, Andrada apologized for the reported violence the swimmers experienced. After more details began to emerge, Andrada continued to offer his sympathies to Lochte, campaigning for the police to "give these kids a break."
"Sometimes you take actions that you later regret," he said. "Lochte is one of the best swimmers of all-time. They had fun, they made a mistake, it's part of life, life goes on, let's go." (As a side note: Andrada has earned himself the nickname "Mr. Apology" after making made headlines throughout the Olympic Games apologizing for various guffaws in Rio, such as the pool water turning green. Not it seems that "Mr. Apology" will not be demanding one from Lochte even if it's proven that he was indeed fabricating his story.)
The investigation into what really happened early Sunday morning is ongoing, so it's still unclear what will become of the four American swimmers. Court officials in Brazil called for their passports to be seized, forcing the Americans to remain in Brazil until the inquiry was concluded. Lochte, however, had already returned to the United States. Conger and Bentz still remain in Brazil and are cooperating with the Brazilian authorities. United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Patrick Sandusky stated that the two were working to schedule a time and place to meet with the Brazilian authorities. Sandusky also revealed that each swimmer is being properly represented by legal counsel, as well as supported by the USOC and the U.S. consulate in Rio.
Lochte is being represented by his attorney Jeff Ostrow. Ostrow has previously stated that there was no doubt that the robbery occurred. Steve Lochte, Ryan's father, also backed his son's story, claiming it would be "just ridiculous" for the swimmers to fabricate anything.
A police news conference is scheduled for Thursday afternoon to update the public on the ongoing investigation. Hopefully this will begin to answer the many questions still circling around Ryan Lochte and his U.S. Swimming teammates.