Saint or Sinner: Why Ryan Lochte is Neither

I’ve run the gamut this week: upset for, mad at, and now, unbelievably, outraged on behalf of Ryan Lochte.

Matt Lauer of NBC’s Today Show should be ashamed of himself.


Unless you’ve been on Mars, you’ve by now heard the tale of the robbery that wasn’t, or perhaps sort of was, but in any case was overblown. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte reported that a taxi transporting him and three other fellow gold medalist swimmers was pulled to the side of the road by men impersonating the police. A gun was held to Lochte’s forehead, the men were relieved of money, but no one was injured.

Ryan went home, but when his teammates tried, two were forcibly taken off of their airplane, all detained by police, and made to atone for their sins.


Is Matt Lauer as able a judge as Solomon?

It turned out that Ryan’s account wasn’t true — or rather, he had neglected several important facts. Reports of him vandalizing a bathroom and leaving a poor gas station owner with huge bills surfaced. These, too, were untrue.


A gold laurel wreath won by an ancient athlete.

Video now confirms that the swimmers asked the taxi to pull into a gas station because they were in need of a bathroom. When they didn’t find one, drunk and full to brimming, these immature young men relieved themselves in the bushes in the back alley. Lochte made the situation worse by pulling a poster with a thin metal frame off of the wall.

When I heard of the vandalization, I was on the gas station owner’s side. I thought Lochte was a horrible person as well as a liar. But when I found out that the crime was so little — not that he and his teammates should have done it in the first place, I grew indignant.


Enter Matt Lauer, appointing himself the dubious moral center of NBC– and we all know how pious and free of sin everyone there is. Matt decided to grill Lochte for 20 minutes. Repeatedly Lauer exhorted, “It wasn’t a robbery, was it?” and then several more times more emphatically, “It was a negotiation, wasn’t it? It was a negotiation!”

Well Matt Lauer, when someone takes a gun and points it at you because you pissed in their alley it most certainly is NOT a negotiation! Don’t get me wrong, the four young men were disgusting. I’d be upset if anyone did that on my property. But from what I hear, that method of finding relief is not uncommon in Brazil. Still, there is no excuse for their behavior. Making it worse by pulling down a poster, while a small sin, is still a form of vandalism and deserves no pity.

However, reacting to that by brandishing a gun is extreme and utter lunacy. Imagine anyone in the U.S. doing such a thing?


When you take a gun and aim it at someone, whether it be a few feet away, or touching their forehead, it is a terrifying experience. In Lochte’s drunken state, possibly even more so. When you force four men to empty their wallets to pay for such a small thing, that is extortion if not robbery. When the Brazilian police pull men off of a plane, that is idiotic.

UPDATE: Take a look at this well-balanced piece from USA Today reporters Taylor Barnes and David Meeks and the accompanying video footage by clicking HERE.

And thanks to these two reporters who are REPORTING, not grand standing, we learn there were two men pointing guns at the swimmers. I’m surprised that gas station didn’t have more to clean up than just urine!

Further, when Matt Lauer then asks Ryan Lochte if it was not indeed his fault for one of his teammates, James Feigen, being charged with false reporting and being forced to donate $11,000 to a local charity before the judge would drop charges, Ryan Lochte was speechless. Lauer went on to postulate that Feigen disavowed being involved because he didn’t want to tattle on Lochte.


Well, no, Matt Lauer, it was Feigen’s decision to lie, just as it had been Lochte’s. Still, not one of these young men has deserved the harassment, the persecution by you and Al Roker, being humiliated, pulled off of planes, and the like. And further, for you to imply that Lochte deserves to be banned from the next Olympics and to lose his endorsements, is absolutely ridiculous, and cruel.


Lochte is a wild card, immature, irreverent, flashy, outrageous, and the like. But he also gives the sport a boost, both by being the second most highly decorated swimmer in U.S. history, and also by adding a bit of dash to the lineup. Whether it’s his outrageous star spangled grill, or his bluish-white hair, or whatever silly thing he’s up to, he adds the same sparkle Johnny Weir does to ice skating.


If we can forgive Michael Phelps, which we do gladly, albeit for a much more serious offense, then Lotche deserves the same chance. And you, Matt Lauer, need to get off of your soap box.

Author’s update: I totally forgot to say that Billy Bush, who did the initial interview and then followed up, was indeed both a fair minded journalist and a gentleman when he tried to temper things on camera. He explained that a scary incident involving a gun had been involved, and though Lochte shouldn’t have over-embellished, it certainly was a traumatic encounter. Kudos to you Billy Bush, I hope to be seeing more of you on TV. 

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9 replies »

  1. Absolutely agree. A classic case of ‘much ado about nothing.’ Two countries were embarrassed, the Olympics stained, so they had to take it out on a (yes, outrageous and childish) young man. He did a stupid, foolish thing, but it shouldn’t ruin his career or his life.

  2. I agree Diana. In Lake Placid, one group of Olympians so destroyed an Olympic Village trailer that security was alerted due to concern it was evidence of a terrorist attack / kidnapping. Fortunately, the athletes in question were on a plane to the White House – one of them with five gold medals. We certainly didn’t hear about that but times have changed.

    The media most enjoys building someone up so they can then demolish them – like boys with building blocks.

    I will mention another event: Yugoslavia 1984
    Two Olympians, one had won gold in a previous Olympics, were both arrested after shimmying up half a dozen flag poles to steal official Olympic flags. They were marched at AK-47 point – off to jail and only released after some sincere groveling.

  3. I don’t agree. What they did was compound on something so small and make the falsehoods so large that it took on the integrity of an entire nation of people. There were all sorts of reports of thieves in Brazil and Lochte took advantage of that story to try and make himself and his teammates victims while piling on and making Brazil look worse. Not just Brazil but blaming Brazilian police or those pretending to be police.

    Lochte is not a kid. He’s a 32 year old man that should have known better. I do think pulling the other two teammates off the plane might have been excessive but they chose to not say anything and let the story perpetuate. And none of the other 3 bothered to step up and speak the truth until they were forced to.

    Utterly ridiculous and completely classless.

    • Ada, I’m so happy you’re here to voice your opinion just I as I did mine. You’re right that Lochte is old enough to have known better. As I said, his antics were outrageous and immature. Still, in my opinion, no one, especially two men who are not police officers, has the right to pull a gun and demand money from anyone. I would have been terrified. How much did it cost to clean up the fluid in the back alley, how much was the poster worth? I’d really like to know how much these four were forced to pay at gunpoint. To me, that is robbery, even if it is provoked. And $11,000 forced out of Feigen is another form of extortion as well.

      Take a look at this report from USA Today with video:

      Finally, Lochte may have made the situation worse by talking to the press and exaggerating, he might have pulled down the poster, but all four of them were urinating, all four of them were involved, and all four of them to blame. Why is it only Lochte’s career that Matt Lauer and others want to see go down the drain? If we reacted to lies this way every time we heard them, we’d be reassembling our government every five minutes. I, too, am tired of lies, but the punishment should fit the crime and what Matt Lauer suggested was way over the top.

      Thanks for stopping by and feel free to keep the conversation going!

  4. I agree with Diana. Having two armed guys (in uniforms) pointing guns at you and demanding money in a foreign language – who knows what the interpreter said, is terrifying. I think Lochte and the others committed misdemeanors, but are being “tried” and convicted in the press as felons, deserving of severe punishment, as per Lauer et al. If bad judgments are now felonies, we would all go to jail. Brazil is to be commended for a great Olympics, but condemned for the judicial shakedown to the tune of 11K or more. Olympians should be held to a higher standard, but there are mostly young people blowing off steam, and should not be publicly humiliated by the likes of Lauer et al.

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