Ryan Lochte lost three major sponsors when swimsuit company Speedo USA, clothing giant Ralph Lauren and skin-care firm Syneron-Candela announced in quick succession Monday they were dumping the swimmer over a drunken incident during the Rio Olympics that he initially described as an armed robbery.
Speedo USA also said it would donate $50,000 of Lochte’s fee to Save The Children to benefit needy youngsters in Brazil.
“While we have enjoyed a winning relationship with Ryan for over a decade and he has been an important member of the Speedo team, we cannot condone behavior that is counter to the values this brand has long stood for,” the prominent swimsuit company said in a brief statement. “We appreciate his many achievements and hope he moves forward and learns from this experience.”
Shortly after Speedo USA made its announcement, Ralph Lauren and Syneron-Candela followed suit.
But even as the corporate advertisers were abandoning the swimming star, new evidence surfaced complicating the picture of what happened at the now-famous confrontation involving four American swimmers at a Brazilian gas station.
USA Today reporters revisited the site of the Aug. 14 altercation and their findings appeared to vindicate at least some of the athletes’ claims.
Lochte, Gunnar Bentz, Jimmy Feigen and Jack Conger were called “liars” after Mr. Lochte claimed to have been robbed at gunpoint outside the gas station bathroom. A Brazilian judge now says that police hastily cleared security guards of a crime, and the USA Today inspection seems to gibe with Lochte’s later account of the incident.
The newspaper sent its videographer to the gas station last Thursday to verify Rio Police Chief Fernando Veloso’s claim that the U.S. swimmers broke a mirror and a soap dispenser inside the bathroom. He found nothing to indicate that either part was damaged.
Bentz issued a statement saying Lochte tore a sign off a wall at the gas station and got into a heated exchange with the security officers, though Bentz denied the swimmers did any damage to the locked bathroom.
The newspaper noted that Rio authorities have declined to identify the guards or offer any details beyond confirming that they are members of law enforcement.
Brazilian police have charged Lochte of filing a false police report. He may face up to six months in prison and a fine. Feigen has already paid a $11,000 fine, which will be donated to a charity to avoid prosecution. Bentz and Conger face no charges.
Lochte issued a brief statement through his public relations firm Monday addressing his long relationship with Speedo.
“I respect Speedo’s decision and am grateful for the opportunities that our partnership has afforded me over the years,” he said. “I am proud of the accomplishments that we have achieved together.”
The financial costs of losing Speedo and Ralph Lauren are likely to be only the first sanctions that await Lochte, whose night of partying ended up tarnishing the reputation of the American team and dominating news away from the stadiums and arenas in the final days of the Rio Games that closed Sunday night.
Both the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Swimming have indicated that Lochte will be punished, perhaps endangering the 32-year-old’s hopes of competing in a fifth Olympics at Tokyo in 2020. The incident caused a furor in Rio, where street crime was a major issue heading into the games.
Lochte is a 12-time Olympic medalist and long one of the most popular U.S. athletes, known for his trademark saying “Jeah!” and such antics as wearing diamond grillz on the medal stand and dying his hair a silvery color before the Rio Games.
At these games, Lochte had a greatly reduced role after qualifying for just one individual event. He finished fifth in the 200-meter individual medley, far behind longtime rival Michael Phelps, but did help Phelps and the Americans win gold in the 4x200 freestyle relay.
⦁ Doug Ernst contributed to this report.
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