‘LochteGate’ is the Summer Blockbuster You’ve Been Waiting For
As recently as late Wednesday night, the world still believed Ryan Lochte and three other U.S. swimmers had been robbed at gun point by people posing as Brazilian police officers. After a few more details came to light, a Brazilian judge ordered that Lochte and swimmer Jimmy Feigen needed to surrender their passports.
The two other swimmers, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz, were pulled off their flights before they could take off for the United States, while Lochte had already made it back to the U.S., where he was laying low, probably replying with the word “jeah” when someone asked him if the robbery had actually happened.
But then the Brazilian authorities dropped the biggest bombshell of these Rio Olympics: the whole story was made up, and they had proof.
The proof in question is a surveillance video from a gas station called The Pit Stop, located in a Rio suburb. It’s comforting to know that there are gas stations all over the world called the Pit Stop, unoriginal gas station names being something of a universal concept shared among many peoples and cultures.
In the video, which was leaked by an anonymous Brazilian source and not yet available to the public, the swimmers encounter a locked bathroom door and, choosing the best available option, push on it until they destroy it.
We’ve all been there. You go to an international party hosted by the French, you Snapchat your experience; you roll out with your friends, stop at a gas station for some beef jerky or a corn dog that’s six days old, and one of you has to use the bathroom. But what are you going to do if it’s locked? Asking the manager for a key would be a hassle. And peeing outside could have dire consequences.
So you and your swimming bros break the door down, and then get confronted by a security guard who’s just trying to make sure doors stay on their frames during his shift, the manager shows up, and one of you (presumably Lochte, as he had the television show) pays the manager for the damages.
But when you start to sober up, you worry that your early morning door destruction might get you in trouble with the USOC, your parents, or both. So you concoct an incredibly stupid and easy-to-disprove tale of being held at gunpoint by people posing as police officers.
It’s really that simple.
In another video that is currently available to the public, the four swimmers can be seen quickly leaving the Pit Stop and trying to get into another taxi one pump over from their actual taxi. That they were drunk enough to get into any ol’ yellow car really helps to explain the complexity of this situation.
In a late-night segment on Wednesday, Matt Lauer relayed quotes from an interview with Ryan Lochte about how the swimmer was sticking to his story, although a few of the details had changed. Why no one at NBC said, “Hey Matt, maybe record the conversation,” is beyond me. Lochte, according to Lauer, insisted they had been robbed, but that the gun hadn’t been pressed to his forehead and cocked — in reality it was just pointed in his “general direction.”
Perhaps the most concerning part of this story is how much time and money the Brazilian police have wasted on “LochteGate” just a few days after a severed leg was found in the bay where the sailing events are currently taking place. It’s easy to imagine the police filing the severed leg report into a thick folder labeled “severed body parts in or near water” and then getting back to staring at a dry erase board with all the details of the alleged Lochte robbery.
It certainly seems like Lochte and friends made this story up, with Conger and Bentz admitting to the fact they vandalized the bathroom.
That doesn’t change the fact that a lot of people have wasted a lot of resources on disproving the story because of a cultural sensitivity towards crime in the area. It seems as though those resources could have gone towards actually preventing crime in the area. Either Ryan Lochte will admit that he made this up in the coming days or he will take the truth with him to the grave.
But either way, this story should not tarnish what has been a great Rio Olympics.
Michael Sapenoff is a writer and artist in Kansas City. Follow him @MikeSapenoff