By: Rebekah Devorak | Opinions Editor
Now that the 2016 Rio Olympics are officially over, it’s safe to say that the United States dominated in two specific areas.
The first area is the sports themselves. Hundreds of U.S. athletes came away with a total of 121 medals, 51 more than second-place China in the overall count. According to Team USA’s official website, that’s the most medals won since the 1984 Olympics, where the U.S. earned 174.
But all of that gold, silver and bronze is looking a little tarnished from the second area for which this country has a knack: causing embarrassing, unacceptable international scandals.
On Aug. 14, U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte claimed that he and three other swimmers — Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen — were robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro. Lochte confirmed that assailants posing as police had stopped their taxi en route back to the Olympic Village from the France house early that morning with TODAY’s Billy Bush, after members of the International Olympic Committee denied that such an event took place.
As it turns out, the IOC was right.
Brazilian police began investigating Lochte’s claims early last week. They found that rather than being robbed of his money with a pistol to his forehead — a detail that one would think he could never fabricate because of its severity and seriousness — he was involved in vandalizing property at a gas station.
According to an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer that aired during the primetime Olympics, security guards pulled a gun on Lochte and the other swimmers, who were intoxicated, after they destroyed a restroom and demanded that the swimmers pay for said damages before leaving.
Lochte’s actions here will forever be a dark smudge on the 2016 Olympics. In 20 years, people will think back and remember the immature actions of a 32-year-old swimmer and the chaos he caused rather than the games themselves. Fabricating this kind of story is an incredibly selfish move by Lochte made because he either was too inebriated to clearly remember the events of the night or was too scared to claim responsibility for his actions.
Either way, the U.S. Olympic athletes who competed in these games at such a high level, won medals and behaved appropriately — such as Allyson Felix, whose only “Scandal” was that she visited the set of the Olivia Pope show — will always be partially eclipsed by Lochte’s poor decision making. And that’s certainly not fair.
Perhaps even worse beyond that is Lochte’s response to the mess. Even after coming clean in his interview with Lauer, the heavily-decorated Olympic swimmer still had a difficult time owning up to what he did.
When asked why he used the word “victims” in a previous interview when the police were referring to the swimmers as vandals, Lochte responded with, “It’s how you want to make it look like. Whether you call it a robbery, whether you call it extortion or us paying just for the damages, like, we don’t know. All we know is that there was a gun pointed in our direction, and we were demanded to give money.”
This quote came after Lochte admitted he “over-exaggerated” having a gun pointed to his forehead and flat-out told Lauer, “That didn’t happen.”
Mario Andrada, a spokesperson for the Rio Olympics organizing committee, said that Lochte and the other swimmers didn’t need to apologize because he understood “that these kids were just trying to have fun.”
Considering that the youngest swimmer of the group is 20, which legally does not qualify him as a “kid,” and considering that the group not only embarrassed the United States and its athletes but also Brazil, its people and its police, I’d say that Andrada is incorrect. A genuine apology beyond a sheepish interview is the least that Lochte can do.