Monday, January 22, 2018
Sports

Lochte suspended 10 months over Rio incident

Twelve-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte was suspended 10 months by the United States Olympic Committee and USA Swimming for the late-night incident at a gas station that became an embarrassment during the Rio Games last month, according to USA Today and other news outlets Wednesday.

Lochte also will be banned from the 2017 world championship meet in Budapest in July. The three U.S. swimmers he was with at the gas station that night received shorter suspensions, USA Today reported.

Neither the USOC nor USA Swimming responded to requests for comment.

The swimmers were involved in the incident after a night of partying following the end of the Olympic swimming competition.

Lochte's mother, Ileana Lochte, told USA Today the next morning that her son had been robbed. Lochte then claimed he and his teammates were detained at gunpoint and forced to pay money so they could leave.

The details Lochte initially embellished — about a gun being cocked against his forehead, for example — drew the attention of Rio authorities, who met with the swimmers to take statements and begin their own investigation. Rio authorities soon were alleging that the swimmers had filed a false police report. Authorities later said that only Lochte and Jimmy Feigen had made false statements to police, and the other two, Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger, were regarded as witnesses.

At a news conference, however, Rio authorities also offered an embellished account. Rio police chief Fernando Veloso characterized the athletes' actions at the gas station as vandalism, alleging they had broken into the restroom and vandalized a soap dispenser and mirror.

Veloso also defended the security guards drawing their weapons as necessary to protect themselves, though a witness told USA Today that the swimmers were "terrified" and the guards had pulled their guns when the swimmers tried to leave the scene without paying for alleged damage to an advertising sign.

USA Today later reported that the swimmers were in a taxi that was prevented from leaving the gas station by an armed man who flashed a badge and ordered them out of the car, and that they were held at gunpoint and forced to pay money, about $50, for damaging a sign. Video showed a security guard did aim his gun at Lochte's head, though it was not "to the forehead," as Lochte initially said. There was no evidence the swimmers entered the restroom, which was locked.

The swimmers said they had stopped at the gas station because they needed to urinate and said they did so in bushes behind the building after finding the restroom locked. All four eventually were able to leave Brazil by the end of the Olympics.

Lochte, 32, was dropped by four of his major sponsors after admitting he "overexaggerated." Late last month, ABC television said Lochte was joining the cast of Dancing With the Stars, a competition in which celebrities are paired with professional ballroom dancers.

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