Olympics: Rio incident cuts short Ryan Lochte's commercial victory lap

US swimmer Ryan Lochte holds a press conference on Aug 3, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
US swimmer Ryan Lochte holds a press conference on Aug 3, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.PHOTO: AFP

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The week after winning his sixth career Olympic gold in Rio, US swimmer Ryan Lochte should have been doing a victory lap, cashing in on his performance with fresh sponsorship deals.

Instead, one of America's most decorated swimmers is accused by Brazilian police of inventing a story about an armed robbery to cover for some bad behavior at a gas station.

It could not come at a worse time for the 32-year-old.

One of his sponsors, swimwear company Speedo, said it was monitoring the situation.

Another, mattress brand Airweave, was still trying to understand what had happened.

"I'm sorry about Ryan and I don't know about the situation and our position is not changing at this time," Airweave chief executive Motokuni Takaoka told Reuters.

After the Olympic cauldron is extinguished, a gold medallist only has a brief time to turn fame into commercial gain.

"That window of opportunity that you have to take advantage of your celebrity and your status is pretty small, realistically weeks," said Jim Andrews, senior vice president of sponsorship tracking firm IEG.

Lochte has said he and three teammates were robbed by gunmen early on Sunday, on their way back to the Athletes' Village from a party. Police denounced this version of events on Thursday, accusing Lochte and the others of lying.

Lochte returned to the United States on Monday, before authorities moved to prevent the four swimmers from leaving the country pending investigations into the incident - exactly the sort of high-profile scandal that the country hoped to avoid while hosting South America's first Olympic Games.

Lochte's sponsors include a small line-up of US companies. Apart from Speedo and Airweave, they include Marriott International, and Ralph Lauren Corp, according to his website.

Representatives for Marriott Rewards and Ralph Lauren could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Lochte's agent, CAA's Lowell Taub, could also not be reached for comment.