Olympics

Lochte admits he 'over-exaggerated' Rio robbery story

Brazilian police say U.S. swimmers lied about robbery

 

U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte has admitted he "let my team down" when he falsely claimed that he and three of his USA Swimming teammates were robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro last week.

In an interview with NBC's Matt Lauer that aired Saturday night, Lochte said he was "taking full responsibility for" the furor that overshadowed the final week of the Summer Games.

Initially, Lochte claimed that he, Feigen, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz were robbed at gunpoint by theives posing as police officers early Sunday morning. Local authorities claimed that the swimmers had vandalized a gas station bathroom while intoxicated after attending a party with fellow athletes.

"I over-exaggerated that story," Lochte said. "If I had never done that, we wouldn't be in this mess."

Ultimately, Lochte and teammate James Feigen were indicted by Rio civil police for falsely reporting a crime. While Lochte returned to the U.S. before a Brazilian judge ordered his passport seized, Feigen was forced to pay the equivalent of $10,800 to a Brazilian charity before he could leave the Olympic city on Friday. 

Lochte apologized on Instagram Friday for not being "more careful and candid" in retelling the incident. He repeated his apology in an interview that aired on Brazil's O Globo TV channel Saturday.

"I'm sorry," Lochte said, according to Reuters. "Brazil doesn't deserve that."

Late Friday, Bentz issued his own statement denying the swimmers vandalized the gas station bathroom. However, Bentz also appeared to criticize Lochte, saying the 12-time medalist ripped an advertising sign off a wall, then got in a verbal confrontation with the security guards. 

"It's how you want to make it look like," Lochte said. "Whether you call it a robbery, whether you call it extortion or us paying for the damages like, we don't know. All we know is there was a gun pointed in our direction and we were demanded to give money."

Police said the guards confronted the atheletes and ask them to pay for the damage they had caused. In the NBC interview, Lochte admitted that he understood that was what was being asked of him and his teammates. 

At that point, Lauer said, "You're striking a deal. Is that fair?"

"We just wanted to get out of there," Lochte said, adding the swimmers were frightened.

Lauer told Lochte that his story had morphed from one about "the mean streets or Rio" to a negotiated settlement to cover up dumb behavior.

The International Olympic Committee has convened a disciplinary commission to investigate the incident and determine what sanctions the swimmers may face. Lochte, 32, has not indicated whether he will compete at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Lochte, who dyed his hair white for the Games and had it turn a light shade of green from the pool, had changed his hair back to its regular color for the interview. As Brazilian police investigated his robbery claim, and eventually held his teammates for questioning while they sorted out his story, he had tweeted he intended to dye it back.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.