Disgraced Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte to dance with stars

Ryan Lochte posing with his gold medal during the podium ceremony for the men's 200m individual medley swimming event at the 2015 FINA World Championships in Russia.
Ryan Lochte posing with his gold medal during the podium ceremony for the men's 200m individual medley swimming event at the 2015 FINA World Championships in Russia.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Disgraced Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte is joining Dancing With The Stars, ABC television announced on Tuesday (Aug 30), as the gold medalist said he thought reaction to his tale about being held up at a Rio de Janeiro gas station had been blown out of proportion.

Lochte, 32, was dropped by four of his major sponsors after admitting he had "overexaggerated" a tale about being robbed and held at gunpoint with three other swimmers after a party during the Rio Olympics. The Brazilian authorities say the group destroyed a bathroom and urinated in public, and have recommended that Lochte be charged with falsely reporting a crime.

The swimmer, who was vilified in the media over the incident, did not say whether he planned to return to Brazil to face the charges. "I think it's everyone blowing this way out of proportion. I think that's what happened," Lochte told ABC's Good Morning America on Tuesday, when asked whether he had embarrassed the United States with his actions.

"Like I said, I did lie about that one part," said Lochte, referring to his claim that a gun was held to his head. "I take full responsibility. I'm human. I made a mistake. A very big mistake."

"Everyone has got to be sick and tired about hearing about this. I just want to move forward," added Lochte, his silver-dyed hair now returned to a more natural brown.

The 12-time Olympic medalist said his appearance on the 23rd season of Dancing With The Stars had been under discussion before he went to the Rio games. After the London Olympics in 2012 he was given his own short-lived, TV reality show, What Would Ryan Lochte Do?

Other Dancing With The Stars contestants in the season starting on Sept 12 will include 16 year-old US Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez, former Texas governor Rick Perry, and rapper Vanilla Ice.

Dancing With The Stars, in which celebrities are paired with professional ballroom dancers and voted off by the public, has been a popular venue for those seeking a comeback or trying to change their public image. Past contestants have included Bristol Palin, daughter of the 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, singer Donny Osmond, and retired Olympic speed skater Apolo Ohno.