One day after posting an apology online, and a week after he claimed he and his teammates were robbed at gunpoint while in Rio, Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte sat down with NBC's Matt Lauer, admitting, "I over-exaggerated that story."
Lochte, 32, has yet to confess to outright lying. Instead, the teary-eyed swimmer told Lauer, "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."
According to two of Lochte's teammates on the scene and Brazilian police, the swimmers urinated on the back of a gas station, Lochte committed minor vandalism to a sign, they attempted to leave, and two armed guards at the station — showing their guns without pointing them — detained them and demanded restitution. The men paid approximately $70 U.S. and were allowed to leave. After confusion as to what happened, Lochte granted an interview to NBC's Billy Bush, in which he reported the event as a dramatic robbery at gunpoint, in which their taxi had been pulled over by men masquerading as police.
Lochte's new admission follows a steady drip of damaging developments, including a statement by teammate Gunnar Bentz that fingered Lochte as having vandalized the gas station where the incident took place, and a terse exchange between Billy Bush and Al Roker, in which Roker bluntly called Lochte a liar.
Today, Lochte's teammate Jack Conger, another of the men involved in the Rio incident, issued the following statement:
"It's good to be back home in the U.S. Participating in the Olympics was a wonderful experience, and I want to express my appreciation to Brazil and to Rio de Janeiro for being wonderful hosts. I also want to express my gratitude for the support I've received from my family and friends, USA Swimming, the US Olympic Committee, and the University of Texas.
"Unfortunately, one event has become the focus of attention, and I want to briefly address that event today. First and foremost, I deeply regret the trouble and embarrassment this event has brought to the people of Brazil and Rio de Janeiro, and the distraction it has caused from the achievements of my fellow Olympians. Brazil and Rio have staged a great Games, and it was a privilege to be there and to represent the United States of America. I also want to express my regret for its impact on USA Swimming and the USOC.
"Let me begin by emphasizing that I have been completely truthful in my statements throughout this unfortunate situation, including the information I provided to US officials before leaving Brazil. In fact, the Brazilian authorities made clear to me from the very beginning that I was being considered only a witness, not a suspect.
"Perhaps it will be helpful to provide a summary of what I believe happened that night:
"Early Sunday morning I was with USA swimming teammates celebrating at the French House. Four of us took a taxi back to the Olympic Village, and on the way we pulled into a gas station to use the restroom, but ultimately relieved ourselves outside, for which I apologize. Ryan Lochte removed a poster from a nearby wall, which apparently alerted the gas station employees, leading to our being confronted by two armed security men. Although I cooperated with their requests while there was a heated exchange among others, at one point a weapon was pointed at me. Eventually, a man appeared who was able to translate for us, helping to defuse the situation. We paid some money to compensate them for the torn poster, and returned to the Village in a different taxi.
"This has been an unsettling, humbling and frightening experience. It's a reminder that all of us, when we travel and especially when we represent the US in the Olympics, are ambassadors for our country and should be on our best behavior.
"Again, I want to express my appreciation to Brazil and Rio de Janeiro, and my apologies. I appreciate the support I have received from my family and friends, as well as the support I've received from my teammates and so many others. Now, I am looking forward to getting back into my normal routine of school and swimming."
Chalking his actions up to "immature behavior," Lochte seemed especially eager to let people know he was "hurt" by the perception that he abandoned his teammates, having left Brazil a day earlier than his friends, who were ultimately pulled off a plane and made to endure a police interrogation.
"I let my team down," a contrite Lochte confessed to Lauer. "I don't want them to think I left them high and dry."