August 22nd, 2016

Billy Reed on Lochte fiasco in Rio

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Billy Reed

Executive Editor


Billy Reed on Lochte fiasco in Rio
US Olympic Swimmer Ryan Lochte / photo credit: NBC Sports

If there is any saving grace about the Ryan Lochte fiasco, it’s the timing of it.

It comes when thousands of American students are going off to college, some for the first time.

As a part of their orientation, the freshman will be told about the dangers inherent in being on their own for the first time.

They will be warned about parties and the consequences that can come for abusing alcohol or using drugs. They will be told that it only takes one bad decision to ruin or change their lives forever.

Now counselors can point to the sad example of Lochte, the erstwhile American swimming icon who has thrown away all those years of hard work in the pool, not to mention his good name, for one night of partying in Rio.

The story is still unfolding and not all the holes have been filled. But apparently Lochte and three of his swimming pals left the Olympic Village to attend a party where they got absolutely wasted.

Deep into the night, they apparently caught a taxi to take them back to the Village. The cab stopped for gas and the swimmers apparently trashed the service station’s restroom and got into some kind of altercation with the station manager.

When they attempted to get back in their cab, the station manager approached them with a gun and ordered them to get out of the cab and get down on their knees. All this was captured on the station’s security cameras.

By the time the story broke days later, Lochte was safely back in the U.S., but a couple of his younger buddies were still in Rio. Lochte was asked to surrender his passport to the Brazilian embassy, and the other swimmers were detained at the airport as they attempted to leave the country.

In his first interview, Lochte told a story that now appears to be almost completely without merit. He said that he and his friends were in a taxi on the way back to the Village when the cab was stopped by faux policeman who then held them up at gunpoint. He depicted himself as a hero who refused to kneel until a gun was placed to his head.

But security tape at the Village showed that when the swimmers finally returned at around 6 a.m., they still had their cell phones and other objects that the robbers supposedly took.

The Brazilian police, sensitive to scrutiny and criticism, are outraged that Lochte and his cronies tried to make them look bad in the eyes of the world. They will not simply let this go in the interest of the Olympic spirit.

However it eventually works out, the damage already has been done so far as Lochte’s future is concerned. He can say bye-bye to any commercial endorsements that might have come away. His chances of landing a cushy job have vanished quicker than it takes him to swim 50 meters.

The thing that makes it worse for Lochte is that he can’t use age or immaturity as an excuse. He’s a 32-year-old man who has traveled the world. He should have set a much different example for his younger teammates.

As of this writing, Lochte has not offered a different version of his original story. He has neither apologized nor asked forgiveness. The longer he remains silent, the more cavalier he acts, the worse it will be for him.

He doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt because of the evidence on the security tapes. They prove his original story was a lie. And this is a man who has won 12 Olympic medals, including one gold at Rio, and holds three world records.

The rise and fall of Lochte should be a cautionary tale for young people everywhere, especially college students. Partying has been a part of campus life since the first book was cracked at Harvard or Yale. It’s normal and fun until it’s not; until it gets out of control.

A Google search will reveal all kinds of stories about how alcohol and drugs lead to sexual abuse, fights, ruined lives, and even death. As we know from the Lochte mess, a lifetime of good work can be wiped out by one night of partying too hard.

The police in Brazil surely will not lack for evidence about how high the swimmers got that night. They were celebrities, especially Lochte, and everybody has a cell phone with a camera, right? This will be a night that will haunt them the rest of their lives.

So young people should ignore the lessons of Lochte at their own peril. There’s no party, no high, that’s worth the loss of your reputation and future. 

 

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