Ryan Lochte: 'I over-exaggerated' incident in Rio

By Allen Cone
Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte took "full responsibility" Saturday for the incident at a gas station on Aug. 14 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Screenshot from NBC
Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte took "full responsibility" Saturday for the incident at a gas station on Aug. 14 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Screenshot from NBC

NEW YORK, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte said he "over-exaggerated" his description of an alleged armed robbery in Rio de Janeiro and apologized for his behavior that overshadowed the final days of the Summer Games.

Lochte, 32, told NBC's Matt Lauer Saturday in an exclusive interview that he takes "full responsibility" for three swimmers -- Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and James Feigen -- and himself vandalizing a bathroom at gas station on Aug. 14 after a night of partying.


Parts of the interview aired Sunday and more will air on Today on Monday.

Originally, Lochte told Brazilian authorities and Lauer an armed robber pointed a gun at his forehead and cocked the weapon.

But Rio police, citing surveillance video and witness testimony, said the swimmers had vandalized the gas station restroom. Then security guards took out their weapons and told them to pay for the damage they caused. Police Chief Fernando Veloso said violence was not used against the athletes.


"What I'm trying to get at is the first version of the story you told, Ryan, was much more about the mean streets of Rio," Lauer said. "And the version we're hearing now is much more about a negotiated settlement to cover up some dumb behavior."

"And that's why I'm taking full responsibility for it," Lochte responded. "Because I over-exaggerated that story. And if I had never done that, we wouldn't be in this mess ... None of this would have happened. And it was my immature behavior."

He said, I "don't know why" the original story wasn't the truth.

"I'm not making me being intoxicated like an excuse, I'm not doing that at all," Lochte said. "It was my fault and I shouldn't have said it."

Lochte was asked why he portrayed himself and his teammates as victims.

"It's how you want to make it look like. Whether you call it a robbery, whether you call it extortion, or us paying just for the damages, like, we don't know," Lochte said. "All we know is that there was a gun pointed in our direction, and we were demanded to give money."

Lochte said, "I'm just embarrassed" and apologized to people in Brazil.


"They put on a great games. The people of Rio or Brazil, the authorities, everyone there put on great games. And my immature behavior tarnished that a little, and I don't want that," Lochte said.

"I'm just really sorry and I hope they can accept my apology," he said.

The interview Saturday in New York came one day after he posted an apology on Instagram.

Lochte returned to the United States last Wednesday. Feigen came home Friday night after reaching a deal with a judge to pay $10,800. Bentz and Conger boarded a plane Wednesday night but authorities removed them from the jet and they stayed in the country one day for further questioning.

"The behavior of these athletes is not acceptable, nor does it represent the values of Team USA or the conduct of the vast majority of its members," the United States Olympic Committee said in a statement Thursday. "We will further review the matter, and any potential consequences for the athletes, when we return to the United States.

"On behalf of the United States Olympic Committee, we apologize to our hosts in Rio and the people of Brazil for this distracting ordeal in the midst of what should rightly be a celebration of excellence."


Besides the USOC, the International Olympic Committee will look at possible discipline for the swimmers.

Lochte, a 12-time Olympic medalist, wants to swim in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

"If they give me that chance I definitely know I can turn this around and become that role model for little kids," Lochte said. "I don't want little kids to look at me for what I just did, for that one night. I don't want that."

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