Ryan Lochte is really competing this season on “Dancing With the Stars.”
The show made the news official Tuesday morning on “Good Morning America” during the cast unveiling — and Lochte was the only contestant to sit for a special interview, given that he recently caused an international incident when he fabricated details about an alleged robbery during the Olympics in Rio.
“You initially said that you exaggerated about what happened that evening. Why did you lie?” “GMA” co-anchor Amy Robach asked him.
“It was still hours after the incident. I’m not one to make excuses, but I mean, I was still intoxicated,” Lochte explained. “I was still going through the emotions of, you know, having a gun pulled on me. I mean, I just — I’m human. I made a mistake and that’s something that I’m going to have to live with.”
Lochte said he still isn’t sure whether to characterize what happened at that gas station (when security reportedly demanded money from the swimmers) as robbery, extortion, or paying for a poster being ripped — he still says the swimmers never damaged the bathroom, as Brazil police claimed. “The story about me vandalizing the bathroom is absurd. It never happened,” Lochte said.
He admitted that he lied when he said there was “a gun pointed at my forehead.” Ultimately, Lochte said, he wants to move on. “We’re just trying to get this over with. It’s been dragged out way too long,” he said. “And the media’s taken this to a whole new level. I just want to put this behind me and move on, move forward.”
“Everyone’s got to be sick and tired of hearing about this. I know I am,” he added.
Although Lochte told Robach he was in talks to star on ABC television’s hit reality show before this infamous incident, the timing is suspiciously perfect. Four sponsors recently dropped Lochte, and “Dancing With the Stars” is an ideal tour stop for scandal-plagued celebrities: It’s a safe, cheesy, family-friendly place to earn some goodwill and display humility as you learn to dance and wear unbelievably sparkly costumes.
There’s no telling whether the American public is ready to forgive (or at least stop mocking) Lochte. But a win on this show — currently seen by about 13 million people per week — could have a huge impact on his image. Here’s how he can possibly win, based on the five factors you need to dominate in this competition:
1) Name recognition.
Easy. Lochte’s scandal briefly took over the Olympics coverage and he’s currently a worldwide punch line, as he’s been eviscerated by sports columnists and the MTV Video Music Awards. For better or worse, everyone knows him.
2) Have an inspirational story.
Well, Lochte, 32, has the whole “road to redemption” thing going for him. While not the most sympathetic figure after his drunken behavior in Rio, he needs to work the “redemption” angle as much as possible during the on-camera interviews, emphasizing how grateful he is to have a second chance after embarrassing the entire country.
Okay, this one is tough. While Lochte possesses that indescribable bro-charisma and ab-tastic physique that has earned him plenty of fans over the years (or at least landed him a cameo as a “sex idiot” on NBC’s “30 Rock”), it’s hard to tell whether America can still be won over by the guy who earnestly tried to coin the phrase “Jeah!” Lochte needs to turn up the charm to 100 to his partner, Cheryl Burke, along with the judges and viewing audience.
Can’t have everything. Maureen McCormick of “The Brady Bunch” has this category pretty well covered. Maybe Lochte can remind viewers of when he was just a gold medal-winning Olympic swimmer with a short-lived E! reality show?
5) Dancing ability.
This one matters more than you might expect, given that the judges’ points count toward your total score. The audience, whose votes also count, will only give pity votes to bad dancers for so long. But Lochte’s in luck, because professional athletes (naturally agile, easily coached) always do well in the physical part of the show. So if Lochte dedicates the same effort to the fox trot that he devotes to the pool, he’s actually in excellent shape to go far in the competition.