A cautionary tale via Ryan Lochte: Don’t tell your mom you were robbed when you were really just partying

Out of air.
Out of air.
Image: Rob Schumacher/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters
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Many of us learned when we were teenagers that lying to your parents can sometimes go very wrong—but not, it seems, Ryan Lochte.

There’s a growing theory that the international scandal that the Olympian swimmer now finds himself embroiled in—in which Brazilian authorities are accusing him of fabricating a story of a gunpoint robbery—may have all started with the 32-year-old telling his mother a whopper.

Late on Saturday night, Lochte and three other US swimmers were partying at Club France in Rio. News emerged suggesting that the 12-time gold medalist had been held at gunpoint at a party. The gossip mills were immediately abuzz—this story was, after all, perfectly plausible in crime-ridden Rio—but Mark Adams of the International Olympic Committee swiftly denied the story.

A few hours after the rumors were dismissed, Ryan Lochte’s mother, Ileana Lochte, told USA Today that her son and a few others were robbed at gunpoint. Lochte’s mom confirmed the crime and said the robbers “just took their wallets and basically that was it.” That’s when the media firestorm began.

It remains unclear when Lochte told the story to his mother—and no one but them know exactly what she was told—but she became a messenger of the story to the media. The AP reports:

Lochte first lied about the robbery to his mother, Ileana Lochte, who spoke with reporters, the police official said. That led to news coverage of the incident and prompted police attention.

Later on Sunday, Lochte was asked about the story by the Today Show’s Billy Bush. In a beachside interview he tells a tail of brash defiance and indifference in the face of danger:

We got pulled over, in our taxi, and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge, no lights, no nothing just a police badge and they pulled us over. They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground—they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn’t do anything wrong, so, I’m not getting down on the ground. And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, ‘Get down,’ and I put my hands up, I was like ‘whatever.’ He took our money, he took my wallet… he left my cell phone, he left my credentials.

The credibility of this account came into question when, despite unending news coverage, no formal complaint was made to the the local police. After Ileana Lochte’s statement, Brazilian police officers took it upon themselves to investigate, and found several discrepancies, eventually leading up to fellow teammates Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz saying that the story of the robbery had been fabricated.

Since then, not only has Lochte had trouble staying true to his version of events, but recent reports also allege that the swimmers didn’t just lie, but they also vandalized a petrol station and urinated in public.

The main takeaway from the saga, say many on the internet, is clear:

If Lochte did in fact lie to his mother, there’s some evidence it’s not the first time. Before the games, Lochte apparently got her to believe that his bleached hair was actually “cute.” Or at least, she told ABC News, “better than the grills.”