“I left details out, and that’s why I’m in this mess,” the 32-year-old Olympic swimmer told NBC’s Matt Lauer in New York City on Saturday, August 20, in his first sit-down TV interview since the scandal unfolded earlier this week.
As previously reported, Lochte told Rio authorities on Sunday, August 14, that he and fellow Team USA swimmers Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and James Feigen were robbed at gunpoint at a gas station after a night out.
In the following hours and days, skepticism grew as inconsistent accounts of the incident began to emerge. Then, on Tuesday, August 16, Rio police said they “found no evidence” to support Lochte’s claims, stating that the athletes were simply confronted by security guards and asked to pay for the damage they left at the gas station.
“I overexaggerated that story,” Lochte told Lauer on Sunday, adding that the part of his story about an armed robber holding a gun to his forehead “didn’t happen.”
When asked why he made up the claim, the athlete stated, “I don’t know why. It was hours after the incident happened [when I spoke to NBC’s Billy Bush, and] I was still intoxicated. I’m not making that an excuse. I shouldn’t have said that. I overexaggerated that part. The gun was drawn, but it wasn’t at my forehead. … I’m not making me being intoxicated, like, an excuse. I’m not doing that at all. It was my fault, and I shouldn’t have said that.”
Lochte continued, “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 the money.”
Lauer then called the 12-time Olympic medalist out for blaming the “mean streets of Rio” rather than his “dumb behavior,” to which Lochte replied, “And that’s why I’m taking full responsibility for it.”
“I’m just really sorry and I hope [the people of Rio] can accept my apology,” he added. “I don’t want little kids to look at me for what I just did, for that one night. I don’t want that.”
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