LOS ANGELES • Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte, making his debut on Monday on the season premiere of the ABC show Dancing With The Stars, was rushed by at least one protester, causing a disturbance that sent the programme to an abrupt commercial break.
Police said two men were detained by security guards for trespassing during the live broadcast and handed over to the police.
"No one on set was touched at the time the incident occurred," a police spokesman said.
An ABC spokesman said: "An individual stormed the dance floor tonight and was immediately subdued and escorted out of the building."
Pictures from the scene showed two men seated with their hands behind their backs wearing shirts that displayed Lochte's name overlaid with the universal red "no" symbol. Reports citing witnesses said several other protesters were wearing similar shirts in the audience.
It was not immediately clear what had happened during the broadcast. One of the show's judges Carrie Ann Inaba was critiquing the performance of Lochte and his partner, professional dancer Cheryl Burke, when she suddenly cut her statement short, apparently in response to what was happening on stage.
"Hey, back off!" Inaba shouted, as security guards appeared to rush past her. The guards tackled the men and several protesters were escorted out of the audience, according to an ABC affiliate in Los Angeles.
The chaos was not shown on television, but the camera cut to the show's host Tom Bergeron who sent the show to commercial as an apparently flustered Lochte wiped sweat from his brow. According to People magazine, the audience started chanting Lochte's name during commercial break, while Burke was in tears.
"We had to go to break because we had a little incident. I would like to personally thank our security team for staying in shape," Bergeron said when the show returned.
He asked Lochte, 32, who was still flushed, how he was feeling after witnessing "that kind of strong emotion". He was referring to strong anti-Lochte sentiment, which has run deep after the swimmer admitted he "over-exaggerated" a tale about being robbed and held at gunpoint with three other swimmers after a party at the Rio Olympics. The gold medallist lost all four of his sponsors and was suspended from competition for 10 months after he apologised for lying.
"So many feelings are going through my head right now. A little hurt," Lochte told Bergeron.
"But I came out here, I wanted to do something that I'm completely not comfortable with, and I did, and I came out with a big smile, and had the best dance partner."
WASHINGTON POST, NYTIMES, REUTERS