Twelve-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte has agreed to serve a 10-month suspension due to his involvement in a gas station incident during the Rio Olympics.
He will also be ineligible for the 2017 world championship meet, and he will have to forfeit all United State Olympic Committee and USA Swimming medal funding for the gold medal he earned as part of the men's 4x200 freestyle relay in Rio.
Other sanctions against Lochte include no monthly stipend and no direct support or access to USOC training facilities during the suspension. Lochte will also have to perform 20 hours of community service.
"We accept the decision as believe it is in everyone’s best interest to move forward," Jeff Ostrow, Lochte's attorney, said in a statement sent exclusively to USA TODAY Sports. "Ryan is grateful to be a member of the U.S. Olympic Team and USA Swimming. He recognizes his lapse in judgment, and is looking forward to continuing his training, volunteer work with kids, and resuming his swimming career next year with an eye toward representing his country at the 2020 Olympic games in Japan.
"That said, in my opinion, while the collective sanctions appear to be harsh when considering what actually happened that day - Ryan did not commit a crime, he did not put the public safety at risk, and he did not cheat in his sport - we will leave it to others to evaluate the appropriateness of the penalties."
The other three swimmers with Lochte that night at the gas station — Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen — will be suspended from domestic and international USA Swimming national team competitions for four months. They too will lose their monthly stipends and access to USOC training facilities during that span.
All four swimmers will not be allowed to visit the White House alongside fellow U.S. Olympians, and all four are not permitted to attend USA Swimming's annual Golden Goggles event this year.
These disciplinary measures were announced by both the USOC and USA Swimming Thursday morning.
“As we have said previously, the behavior of these athletes was not acceptable. It unfairly maligned our hosts and diverted attention away from the historic achievements of Team USA,” USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said in a statement. “Each of the athletes has accepted responsibility for his actions and accepted the appropriate sanctions. We look forward to focusing our energy on the Paralympic Games and the incredible men and women representing our country in Rio.”
“During an otherwise extraordinary Olympic Games, a small group of athletes had lapses in judgement and conduct that are unacceptable and not consistent with our expectations."
"When Code of Conduct infractions occur, it’s our responsibility to take action that reflects the seriousness of what happened,” USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus said. “Unfortunately, this storyline took attention away from the athletes who deserved it the most. These athletes took accountability for their mistakes and are committed to represent themselves and our country with the great character and distinction we expect.”
The incident at the gas station involved all four swimmers and occurred after a night of partying following the end of the Olympic swimming competition. Lochte's mother, Ileana, told USA TODAY Sports the next morning that her son had been robbed, which kickstarted a week-long news cycle that saw Lochte revise his account of what happened and acknowledge he exaggerated some details. But he stood by his story that 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, which quickly morphed into Rio authorities alleging at a news conference 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 the 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. Those allegations heightened media portrayals of the four swimmers as obnoxious Americans behaving recklessly late at night in a foreign country and Lochte was pilloried in media reports around the world.
Veloso also defended the security guards drawing their weapons as necessary to protect themselves, though a witness told USA TODAY Sports 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.
A USA TODAY Sports investigation of witness accounts, official reports and surveillance videos supported Bentz’s claim that he did not see anyone vandalize the gas station restroom. It also concluded the framework of what Lochte said was true – 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 the 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.
Legal experts and a Brazilian judge also told USA TODAY Sports that the actions of the guards that night may have been illegal, as Brazilian law prohibits anyone from determining on their own the damages to property and using a weapon to collect payment.
All four swimmers eventually were able to leave Brazil by the end of the Olympics, though Bentz and Conger were first pulled off their planes for further questioning before they left and Feigen had to pay a $11,000 settlement to avoid charges before he could return home. Rio authorities say they will pursue a case against Lochte for filing a false police report, but Lochte’s legal team disputes that the swimmer made false statements to police.