As you’ve probably heard by now, reports of Olympian swimmer Ryan Lochte and three other US team members being victims of an armed robbery in Rio on Aug. 14 have now been debunked by Brazilian authorities. On Friday (Aug. 19), the 12-time gold medalist took to Twitter and Instagram to apologize for “not being more careful and candid in how I described the events of that early morning.”
Here’s the text of his apology:
I want to apologize for my behavior last weekend – for not being more careful and candid in how I described the events of that early morning and for my role in taking the focus away from the many athletes fulfilling their dreams of participating in the Olympics. I waited to share these thoughts until it was confirmed that the legal situation was addressed and it was clear that my teammates would be arriving home safely.
It’s traumatic to be out late with your friends in a foreign country – with a language barrier – and have a stranger point a gun at you and demand money to let you leave, but regardless of the behavior of anyone else that night, I should have been much more responsible in how I handled myself and for that I am sorry to my teammates, my fans, my fellow competitors, my sponsors, and the hosts of this great event. I am very proud to represent my country in Olympic competition and this was a situation that could and should have been avoided. I accept responsibility for my role in this happening and have learned some valuable lessons.
I am grateful for my USA Swimming teammates and the USOC, and appreciate all of the efforts of the IOC, the Rio ’16 Host Committee, and the people of Brazil who welcomed us to Rio and worked so hard to make sure that these Olympic Games provided a lifetime of great new memories. There has already been too much said and too many valuable resources dedicated to what happened last weekend, so I hope we spend our time celebrating the great stories and performances of these Games and look ahead to celebrating future successes.”
Lochte’s account of that fateful night (which caused an international scandal after he apparently lied to his mother, and she spoke to the media) came undone on Aug. 18, when authorities in Rio released CCTV footage of the athletes, and witnesses told Brazilian media that the athletes urinated in public and vandalized a gas station. “No robbery was committed against these athletes. They were not victims of the crimes they claimed,” Civil Police Fernando Veloso said during an afternoon news conference the same day, the AP reported.
The investigators offered an alternative narrative (paywall), saying that as the athletes left the gas station, a security guard brandished a gun and asked them to pay for their damages.
In his apology, Lochte complains about the “language barrier” and “[having] a stranger point a gun at you and demand money to let you leave.” However, the 32-year-old does “accept responsibility” and he apologizes to his teammates, competitors, sponsors and the Rio 2016 hosts.
“We accept and appreciate his apology,” Mario Andrada, spokesman for the local organizers of the Rio Games, told the AP. The International Olympic committee had already tried to suppress the growing outcry by saying the swimmers were just “kids [who] came here to have fun.”
But for the wider internet, Lochte’s apology may be too little, too late. The incident could cost Lochte millions in sponsorship money, according to Money.
Many netizens didn’t really buy the sincerity of Lochte’s apology. (The four days he spent speaking of the drama of his robbery, thanking his fans for their concern, and retweeting their supportive messages didn’t help his case.) Some have called his attitude entitled, and he has been called an “ugly American” and the “most embarrassing American Olympian.”
Some users questioned why his apology was not directed to the owner of the gas station, who suffered the most actual damages. Others don’t think he has taken enough blame for the way things played out.