Sports

Embattled Swimmer Ryan Lochte Hit With Suspension For Gas Station Incident

by Jon Baum

September 7, 2016
(Image via CC)

The Rio gas station fiasco continues to loom large over Ryan Lochte.

The American swimmer has been suspended for 10 months, according to reports, for his involvement in the incident in which he initially claimed to have been robbed at gunpoint. The suspension would cause Lochte to miss the 2017 World Championships in Budapest.

Rio police investigated and then asserted that Lochte and three of his teammates had vandalized the gas station restroom and were confronted by security guards on August 14. Lochte and teammate Jimmy Feigen were charged with filing a false police report, but the police account of the incident has also been called into question, as video evidence suggested the men never entered the bathroom.  

Lochte apologized in an NBC interview for having been drinking and therefore embellishing his story, though Feigen denies they ever made a false statement. Some eyewitness accounts also support Lochte and Feigen’s claims, though Lochte does admit the group caused damage to a poster. Still, he asserts he and his teammates did have guns drawn on them.

“I don't know if I would consider it as a robbery, or extortion, or us just paying up for the poster being ripped,” Lochte said

Lochte lost sponsorship deals with Ralph Lauren and Speedo, among others, following the incident, though the Pine Bros. cough drop company later signed him, asking “for a little forgiveness for an American swimming legend.” Lochte says he has reached out to teammates—including offering to repay Feigen the $10,800 the latter paid in order to leave Rio.

Lochte isn’t the first high-profile American athlete to be suspended this year in the wake of Olympic controversy. Women’s soccer team star Hope Solo received a six-month suspension for calling Sweden “a bunch of cowards” after that team used a defensive style of play to defeat the U.S. in the Olympic quarterfinals.  Solo’s contract was also terminated by U.S. Soccer. Women’s national team coach Jill Ellis says it was a series of actions and incidents that led to Solo’s suspension and contract termination. Following the suspension, Solo chose to also leave her Seattle Reign professional squad.

Lochte has won 12 swimming medals for the U.S., including six gold. His lone medal this year was as part of the men’s 4x200 freestyle relay. Lochte is set to appear on the upcoming season of ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars.”

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