Major consequences. The fallout over the Ryan Lochte Rio robbery case could end up costing the 12-time Olympic champion more than his reputation — the swimmer could reportedly lose up to $10 million in lucrative endorsements.
The 32-year-old — who is in the midst of an international incident after claiming that he and three fellow swimmers were robbed at gunpoint while in Rio de Janeiro to compete at the 2016 Olympics — has been accused of lying by Brazilian authorities.
The swimming champ, who currently has endorsement deals with brands including Ralph Lauren, Speedo and Airweave, could lose his contracts due to violating a morals clause if it’s proven that he lied in his police report, and Forbes estimates that it could cost him at least $5 million to $10 million in future lifetime income.
CNN Money reports that Speedo released the following statement about the gold medalist: “Speedo is a sponsor of Ryan Lochte (USA). Speedo is following the situation, and has a policy not to comment on ongoing legal investigations. We suggest you contact his team for additional information.”
As Us Weekly previously reported, Brazilian police stated in a press conference on Thursday, August 18, that there “was no robbery” and Lochte and his teammates Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen lied about being held up at gunpoint on Sunday, August 14, after allegedly being involved in a fight after vandalizing a gas station bathroom.
United States Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun confirmed via a statement on Thursday that the foursome were indeed involved in vandalizing the bathroom in Rio and apologized to the people of Brazil for the swimmers’ “unacceptable” behavior. He noted that they’ll be reviewing the incident further and considering “any potential consequences for the athletes.”
It’s not the first time that Lochte, who appeared in his own 2013 reality show What Would Ryan Lochte Do?, has been in trouble with the law — in 2005 he was fined $110 and sentenced to community service for public urination in Gainesville, Florida. In 2010 he pleaded no contest to a disorderly conduct charge filed by the University of Florida police.
No charges have been filed or arrests made at this point, but Brazilian authorities have said that Lochte and Feigen could be charged with false communication of a crime and vandalism if an investigation finds wrongdoing. ESPN reports that each offense is punishable by one to six months in jail and/or a fine or probation, but offenders are rarely sentenced to jail time for those crimes.
While Lochte returned to the U.S. earlier this week, Feigen remains in Brazil and, according to a statement released by the USOC on Thursday night, he provided a “revised” statement to Brazilian police with the hope that his passport would be returned as soon as possible. Conger and Bentz left Brazil on Thursday night after being interviewed by authorities.
Forbes reports that American athletes are set to receive cash bonuses for medals won at Rio — $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze. Lochte, who won gold with Team USA in the 4×200–meter freestyle relay in Rio, could find that his cash prize has been revoked.
Many in the sports world are speculating that the swimmer’s punishment could depend on how he reacts to the situation. Up until now, Lochte’s lawyer has denied that the swimmer lied to police, but on Thursday night The Hollywood Reporter reported that he has hired high-powered crisis publicist Matthew Hiltzik, who has also repped Justin Bieber, the NFL’s Manti Te’o and Alec Baldwin.
Sports fans are also pointing to how the swimming world handled the suspension of Michael Phelps back in 2014 after he was arrested for driving under the influence for a second time. The Olympic champ was suspended from competition for six months, ordered to forfeit his funding from USA Swimming for that same time period, and withdrew from the 2015 World Championship swimming team. He also lost endorsement deals and subsequently entered a six-week treatment program. By apologizing for his actions, he helped to salvage his reputation and later won new sponsors.
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