Ryan Lochte is one of the best swimmers in the world, with 12 Olympic medals to his name. Now, if he only had the same intimacy with the truth that he does with a pool, then he’d really be a force for good.
He doesn’t, though, and that is why many Americans are covering their faces with embarrassment when someone points out that the man who “over-exaggerated” about a night of drunken stupidity in Rio de Janeiro is one of ours. Claiming he and other members of the U.S. Swim Team were robbed at gunpoint on television, Lochte became an international joke when it was quickly discovered that his claim that the police robbed him was less than genuine.
When I heard Lochte tell his story on morning television, it didn’t seem to ring true then. The man with the silvery dye job was way too calm as he described one of the officers putting a gun to his head and threatening to shoot if he didn’t fork over his money. It sounded like I would if I were reading a line from one of my novels, and as it turns out, Lochte spins as much good fiction as I can.
I have to wonder how the man became such an excellent swimmer, because it’s hard to glide along the water when your foot is in your mouth. It’s probably just as well that lying hasn’t been made an Olympic event, because then Lochte wouldn’t make it past the trials.
I truly hope the young people in our country aren’t looking to Lochte to be a role model, because while he has the discipline to be a stellar swimmer, that’s all the discipline he has. There’s none left to make sure his big trap stays shut when he ponders lying to the world.
He said his taxi was pulled over by the police. False. Nowhere in his story does he describe vandalizing a convenience store, which is where security guards confronted him and the other three swimmers he was with. Instead of owning up to his immature behavior, Lochte decided to lie about it. Now with his hair back in a natural color, he claims it was an “over-exaggeration” rather than a lie, but I have to assume he did better in physical education than English when he was in school.
Right after Lochte’s tale of corrupt cops was given its very public reading, suddenly all the media were abuzz with fears that Rio was unsafe for the world’s best athletes. Of course Rio’s unsafe, because you’ve got Olympic athletes damaging property and spreading manure better than some farmers.
The other three swimmers joining Lochte on that crazy party night were questioned by authorities. Not Lochte, though, because the golden child managed to slip back to the U.S. before Brazilian officials could find him and question him. You’ve got to admire the fact that his flight wasn’t delayed when most folks in the United States almost always experience delays and cancellations when they fly.
Not to fear, though. Although he escaped the Brazilian justice system, it looks like karma is kicking him right where his Speedo fits. Speaking of Speedo, the company, along with Ralph Lauren, skin-care firm Syneron-Candela and the Japanese mattress firm airweave, decided to cut financial ties with the swimmer in short order, not wanting their companies to be associated with someone who thinks his gold medals give him license to lie through his teeth.
Speedo even went so far as to donate $50,000 of the fee it originally intended to give to Lochte to Save the Children so needy children in Brazil can face a better future. It’s a twisted irony that needy children would benefit from an adult’s fallacies, although not as much as the fact that an Olympic swimmer is drowning in a pool of lies.
Lochte could also face sanctions from the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Swimming. Perhaps if the swimmer, now 32, finds him barred from competing in four years when the summer games move to Tokyo in 2020, it might serve as a painful reminder of what we all learned as kids—when you do wrong, you get punished, and when you lie about it, the punishment is even worse.
A particularly creative punishment would be to have Lochte go into a dunk tank and have to sit there until $10 million could be raised to benefit veterans, the homeless, starving children or any other charity you could name. If you got some strong arms with excellent aim giving money, Lochte could look pretty pruny by the time the money was raised, and considering Syneron-Candela specializes in wrinkle-reducing products, there would be some more irony right there.
Of course, Lochte should thank his lucky stars that the 2016 Olympics didn’t take place in Singapore. Caning is still legal there. Ouch.