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Ryan Lochte has apologized for his remarks about what happened to him and a number of other U.S. swimmers in Rio last weekend.
In a statement posted to his Instagram account early Friday morning, the 12-time gold-medal-winning swimmer says he’s sorry for “not being more careful and candid” in how he characterized what happened.
It was revealed Thursday that Lochte and his teammates were not robbed at gunpoint as he initially claimed, but instead vandalized a gas station bathroom and got into a confrontation with a security guard, which ended with them paying an undisclosed sum for the damage.
In his statement, Lochte reiterated his claim that “a stranger” pointed a gun at him and “demand[ed] money.” But he didn’t use the word “robbery,” instead referring to the incident as “what happened last weekend” and “the legal situation.”
“It’s traumatic to be out late with your friends in a foreign country — with a language barrier — and have a stranger point a gun at you and demand money to let you leave,” Lochte wrote. “But regardless of the behavior of anyone else that night, I should have been much more responsible in how I handled myself and for that I am sorry to my teammates, my fans, my fellow competitors, my sponsors and the hosts of this great event. I am very proud to represent my country in Olympic competition and this was a situation that could and should have been avoided. I accept responsibility for my role in this happening and have learned some valuable lessons.”
The Hollywood Reporter revealed late Thursday night that Lochte hired top crisis publicist Matthew Hiltzik to advise him.
Lochte’s remarks on Instagram are his first comments since video of the gas station incident surfaced, casting doubt on his claims that he and his teammates were robbed. While Lochte returned to the U.S. earlier this week, teammates Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger were on their way home Friday, the Associated Press reported, after being held in Brazil to testify. The fourth swimmer, Jimmy Feigen, made a deal with a Brazilian judge to make a $10,800 payment and be allowed to leave the country later Friday, his lawyer said.
Rio spokesman Mario Andrada said, “We accept and appreciate his apology,” according to the AP.
Lochte said he waited to comment “until it was confirmed that the legal situation was addressed and it was clear that my teammates would be arriving home safely.”
The gold medalist also apologized for taking the focus off of other Olympic athletes and the Rio Games in general.
Police have said authorities are considering charging the athletes with falsely reporting a crime and destruction of property, both of which are punishable by up to six months in jail or a fine.
Lochte told NBC’s Today, in an interview with new co-host Billy Bush, the morning after the incident, “We got pulled over, in the taxi, and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge, no lights, no nothing just a police badge and they pulled us over. They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground — they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn’t do anything wrong, so — I’m not getting down on the ground. And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, ‘Get down,’ and I put my hands up, I was like ‘whatever.’ He took our money, he took my wallet — he left my cellphone, he left my credentials.”
On Wednesday night, after police had trouble finding evidence to support Lochte’s robbery claim, fellow Today host Matt Lauer spoke to Lochte again, with the swimmer backtracking on some elements of his story. But he insisted he didn’t make up the tale.
Lochte’s attorney, Jeff Ostrow, also has insisted the story wasn’t made up, and told The New York Times the surveillance video from the gas station supports the “primary elements” of Lochte’s account.
“There was a uniformed person with a gun who forced them to hand over their money,” Ostrow told The Times.
Read Lochte’s full statement below.
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