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After several weeks of murmurs, ABC confirmed Tuesday that Ryan Lochte is trading the pool for the dance floor. The Olympic swimmer, the central player in a scandal that marred the U.S. Olympic team’s performance in Rio de Janeiro, has signed up for Dancing With the Stars.
The network announced a whopping 13 celebrity hopefuls for its upcoming 23rd cycle during Tuesday’s episode of Good Morning America. Lochte will be joined by fellow Olympic gold medalist Laurie Hernandez, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, actresses Marilu Henner and Maureen McCormick and model Amber Rose — among several others.
“We’d been talking about Ryan for some years,” executive producer and showrunner Rob Wade told The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the formal announcement. “His name often comes up — but, in the past, he either couldn’t do it or it just didn’t work out. We were obviously very keen to sign Olympians this season. We wanted a man and a woman, and we had already Laurie.”
Wade added that talks with Lochte began before the incident in Rio, where he falsely claimed that he and three other American swimmers were pulled over and robbed by men with police badges. Security camera footage later revealed that he had vandalized a gas station. “It was during the process that the story broke,” said Wade.
It’s not uncommon for someone in need of image rehabilitation to find themselves on Dancing With the Stars and other redemptive reality shows. TV personality Paula Deen went on the show after admitting to using racial epithets during a deposition for a racial and sexual discrimination lawsuit. Like Lochte, Deen lost her endorsement deals in the wake of her scandal.
As for Perry, Wade noted that getting someone political to participate on the show in the months leading up to the presidential election was key. Perry, who served as the governor of the Lone Star State from 2000 to 2015, made an unsuccessful bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012. “I don’t want anyone to feel like this show is going to be about the election, but that will be part of the conversation,” said Wade. “We haven’t had a politician on the show in ages. You do want to get different kinds of people. One of my favorites ever was Steve Wozniak, who’s basically an inventor. Those people are exciting for the public as well.”
Other participants include race car driver James Hinchcliffe, reality star Terra Jole, ‘90s rapper Vanilla Ice, retired Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, The Fosters actor Jake T. Austin, recording artist Babyface and actress Jana Kramer. Returning professional dancers include Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Derek Hough and Allison Holker.
See the full list of pros and their celebrity partners below. Dancing With the Stars returns to ABC on Monday, Sept. 12.
1. Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Amber Rose
2. Valentin Chmerkovskiy and Laurie Hernandez
3. Artem Chigvintsev and Maureen McCormick
4. Sasha Farber and Terra Jole
5. Derek Hough and Marilu Henner
6. Witney Carson and Vanilla Ice
7. Lindsay Arnold and Calvin Johnson
8. Jenna Johnson and Jake T. Austin
9. Allison Holker and Babyface
10. Sharna Burgess and James Hinchcliffe
11. Emma Slater and Rick Perry
12. Cheryl Burke and Ryan Lochte
13. Gleb Savchenko and Jana Kramer
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