Ryan Lochte, twelve-time Olympic medallist, swimming superstar and rival of Michael Phelps, is being absolutely crucified in the US media for his part in fabricating a story about a robbery at gunpoint committed on himself and three of his US team-mates in Rio during the Olympics.
The US Olympic Committee released a statement late on Thursday apologizing for the "lapses in judgment" of the athletes and seeming to agree with the Rio police's assertion that the athletes had been giving a false account of events. The Guardian report that police viewed Lochte as the main agitator, and that neither Gunnar Bentz or Jack Conger, two of the swimmers, had given misleading statements-while James Feigen later provided a "revised statement".
And, as by far the most high-profile of the athletes involved, Lochte-who was the star of a reality TV show, 'What Would Ryan Lochte Do?', on E!-has been widely castigated for his foolhardiness.
Sally Jenkins of the 'Washington Post' calls Lochte "the dumbest bell that ever rang" in the first line of her piece. And she doesn't let up there. She goes on to say that Lochte epitomises "a special category of obnoxious American 'bro'...entitled young drunks who break the furniture and pee on the wall" and criticise him for playing "a trivial, frivolous game with the issue of Brazilian police ineffectualness and corruption".
The Huffington Post carry a couple of interesting takes on the Lochte affair. Emma Gray contrasts the general reaction to Lochte with that of black female gymnast Gabby Douglas (who was widely slated for not smiling or putting her hand on her heart during the US anthem after winning gold in the women's team all-around). Gray writes that "white men exist in a world that prioritizes their potential, gives them the benefit of the doubt and assumes their actions are mostly benevolent" while "women, especially women of color, don’t have that luxury". Meanwhile, for the same publication, Ryan Grenoble questions Rio 2016 spokesman Mario Andrada's description of Lochte (who is 32) and his colleagues as "kids" and opines that Lochte should be treated as an irresponsible adult rather than a foolish kid.
Christine Brennan of USA Today Sports condemns Lochte for stealing "the heart and soul out of the second week of the 2016 Rio Games", and, as many have done, criticised him for tweeting about his changing hair colour whilst his team-mates "twist in the wind in Rio". She believes he owes an apology to "hundreds of athletes" for stealing their moment in the Sun.
Here's the offending tweet.
The New York Post is another publication taking a wider view of the Lochte incident, Mike Vaccaro saying that Lochte "and his stable of stumble-bumbling swimmer pals" are a symbol of what he calls the "Ugly American" stereotype that results in "suspicious stares on the streets of Prague, rolled eyes we get standing in line for gelato in Florence, or the curious questions we get from cab drivers in County Clare"-a stereotype of Americans with a "sense of entitlement, a feeling of superiority".
The New York Times highlights an irony in Lochte-who confessed a desire to be "a designer, a model, a TV star"-achieving the spotlight he seems to crave, just not in the way he had perhaps envisaged. Karen Crouse's piece contrasts Lochte with his rival, Phelps, who left the Olympic Village on the same night to spend time with his fiancée and son and whose regimented training routine over the years was at times at odds with Lochte's slightly eccentric habits (skateboarding and break-dancing among those hobbies which caused Lochte to miss training because of injury)-though Phelps has himself served suspensions for DUI and marijuana-smoking incidents.
All in all, it seems clear that Lochte has not, by heading home to the USA, escaped the storm he has (mostly) created for himself. Unfortunately, his career now seems destined to be overshadowed not just by the presence of Phelps, but by his own few days of foolishness in Rio.