Brazil police charged Ryan Lochte with a false crime report Thursday, stemming from the incident that took place during the Rio Olympics when he claimed that he and three other swimmers were robbed at gunpoint. If convicted, the decorated athlete could be given a sentence of one to six months in jail, according to Brazil’s O Globo newspaper, although it is unlikely that he will ever return to that country.
Authorities in Brazil said they will summon Lochte to appear in a court in that country and answer to the accusations against him. He reportedly can opt to send a lawyer in his place, but then he would lose the opportunity to negotiate a fine before sentencing occurs.
Lochte has apologized for fabricating details of the Aug. 14 incident, in which he initially claimed that a gun was cocked and held to his head. Citing surveillance video footage and eyewitness accounts, Brazilian authorities have claimed that Lochte and his group vandalized and urinated on a gas station, after which security guards pointed a gun at them and demanded recompense before they left.
“I over-exaggerated that story,” Lochte told Matt Lauer of the “Today” show last week. “If I had never done that, we would never be in this mess. .. None of this would’ve happened. It was my immature behavior.”
Saying he “definitely had too much to drink,” Lochte added that he was still intoxicated when he provided false details to NBC’s Billy Bush the day after the incident. In the wake of the scandal, Lochte was widely criticized — in Brazil, the United States and elsewhere, and he lost four commercial sponsors, including Speedo and Ralph Lauren.
While Lochte was able to return to the U.S. before the firestorm erupted, his three teammates were detained in Brazil, with two of them, Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger, pulled off a plane that was set to fly them back to U.S. soil. The other swimmer, James Feigen, agreed to pay a fine of almost $11,000 in order to not have to wait in Brazil for the investigation to conclude. All four athletes are now back in the United States.
Lochte, who won his 12th Olympic medal in Rio, a gold in the men’s 4×200-meter freestyle relay, and his teammates could still face punishments from one or more of the several sports governing bodies that have some jurisdiction, including Olympic and swimming organizations. Scott Blackmun, CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, said that there would be “further action” on the matter.