Ryan Lochte. James Feigen. Gunnar Bentz. Jack Conger.
Not being American or an avid swimming fan, I did not know these names. They rang no bells in my mind nor conjured any images whatsoever.
Then, on the 15th. August they appeared in the media claiming to have been robbed at gunpoint at a Rio gas station. People believed them because they are athletes and a supposed ‘example’. Their behaviour was found to be anything but exemplary. It seems that Lochte sold the story to his mother. He didn’t want to tell her the truth: he and his friends had got drunk, stopped at a gas station, one got stuck in one of the booths and they found no other way of getting him out than breaking down a door. Another had a bladder so full he didn’t make it to the toilets. He peed against the walls. They also broke a few other things on the premises and tried to ‘pay’ with fifty dollars. There are images of these events.
It would have stayed there, as a false story told by Lochte to his mother if they hadn’t told the press. When the story broke, it caused indignation. These athletes had suffered an assault at gun point by some men claiming to be police officers. Afterwards they tried to turn it around by saying that they were forced to pay by the guards at the station who menaced them with guns and made them sit on the floor til they paid. The official version is now that Ryan Lochte was inebriated and confused, which had led him to mix events and details. Also, the others gave different versions.
This attitude in and of itself is immature, which they themselves have acknowledged. What I find even more inexcusable is the message that the United States Olympic Committee released to the media.
‘On Behalf of the United States Olympic Committee, we apologize to our hosts in Rio and the people of Brazil for this distracting ordeal in the midst of what should rightly be a celebration of excellence.’ Apparently a spokesperson said it was ‘kids misbehaving’ and it was passed off as a youthful indiscretion. Lochte is 32. The youngest is 20. Young, yes. Old enough to know the difference between right and wrong, absolutely. Capable of facing the consequences for their actions, of course.
I doubt these four privileged men realized at the time how badly their actions could have affected the image of the country they were competing in. I doubt that they can fathom the magnitude of the disdain their actions proved. They behaved like entitled brats, on holiday in a country that deserves no respect. Again, two worlds clashing. One, the rich, unthinking arrogance that believes the world is nothing but an oyster for them to eat up and spit out if it suits them. Another, a complex chaotic country that struggles to move forward and eliminate barriers and simply live.
It all comes down to responsibility and thinking before acting. What type of moral values does modern society have that these men are sorry insofar as their actions have a repercussion on their public life, but no further it seems.