Lochte's lies expose him for what he is

Ryan Lochte of USA competes in the Rio 2016 Olympics. PHOTO: REUTERS

Ryan Lochte is the dumbest bell that ever rang. The 32-year-old swimmer is so landlocked in juvenility that he pulled an all-nighter with guys young enough to call him "uncle".

His gunpoint-robbery story had the quality of a kid exaggerating the size of a fish, and notice how he was the hero of every detail. That was always the most dubious part.

Is there anything worse, in any country, than a bunch of entitled young drunks who break the furniture and pee on a wall? There is no translator needed for that one, no cultural norm that excuses it.

Jack Conger is 21. Gunnar Bentz is 20. James Feigen is 26. What a leader of young men Lochte is. You can see the bathroom door appear to burst out of its wooden frame on the security video, presumably when one of those oafs couldn't open it and decided to kick it.

Look, having a gun drawn on you in the small hours was no doubt unnerving, and an over-reaction by the security guard. It's even remotely possible that Lochte really did interpret the demand for cash as a "robbery" of sorts.

Inherent in all of Lochte's statements in this controversy is a lack of respect. You suspect that was what drew such ire from the Brazilian authorities.

But in order to do so, he had to be so impervious to his own odious punk behaviour, and his view of that gas station had to be so low, that he didn't think the vandalising was worth anything.

Inherent in all of Lochte's statements in this controversy is a lack of respect. You suspect that was what drew such ire from the Brazilian authorities, who made a huge public display out of jerking Conger and Bentz off a plane and detaining them for questioning, and recommended charges against Lochte and Feigen.

Lochte has played a frivolous game with the issue of Brazilian police ineffectualness and corruption. Two things are going on here at once: Lochte's self-promoting prevarications, and the sensitivity of Rio authorities, who have been portrayed as incapable of keeping athletes safe amid other Olympic breakdowns.

There have been a lot of genuine robberies of Olympic athletes and officials. A New Zealand athlete was kidnapped by fake police and driven to ATMs. Two Australian coaches were robbed at knife point on Ipanema Beach. After one of their athletes was robbed at gunpoint on Tuesday morning, British track and field officials warned athletes that it is not worth the risk of going out, "given the current climate in Rio".

The police need to show that fears are overstated and these Games are secure - though they are not, particularly - and the stupid Americans offered them something with which to save face.

Fernando Veloso, the civil police chief, said that Lochte had "stained" the city by inventing a crime that didn't happen.

Lochte's conceit intersected with a delicate political issue, and it made a perfect storm. His claim that men posing as police pulled over the taxi and he resisted the robbers with a gun "pressed" to his forehead was an especially ludicrous detail - and the very thing that drew the attention of the authorities, who know full well that anyone who defies a bandit in Rio gets shot on the spot, and they don't leave you with your mobile phone.

In his shifting public accounts, Lochte never mentioned that busted-up bathroom. Now put yourself in the shoes of the over-run and pride-stung local police when they saw that video of the Americans returning to the Olympic village a little after 6am so cheerfully buzzed, and all of them still in possession of their mobile phones and watches.

Equal to his disrespect for the gas station owner and the police is Lochte's disrespect for his fellow swimmers. First, he portrayed his US team-mates as dropping to the ground while he refused, as if he alone had the temerity to remain standing. Yeah, right.

Then he flew home, leaving the younger swimmers to deal with the fallout. And when back in the United States, he made moronic postings on social media, oblivious to the tension they were undergoing while detained in Rio, their passports seized.

Lochte is done as a public figure, of course. Which is probably the most effective form of justice for someone who apparently so craves attention. Oblivion is what he deserves.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2016, with the headline 'Lochte's lies expose him for what he is'. Print Edition | Subscribe