Lochte’s scandal distracts from the Olympic games


Nabeela Syed, Editor-in-Chief

After the Superbowl and the NBA Championship, America is left reeling from either disappointing losses or triumphant wins. Although the results of these competitions often reignite state rivalries, the Summer Olympic Games douse the tension by bringing states back together every four years to rally behind the best athletes America has to offer. Nationalism is especially heightened during this time and so is the burden on individual athletes competing to appropriately represent America on a global scale.

12-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte competed on behalf of America in the 200m individual medley and the 4x200m freestyle for swimming. Although his achievements have garnered him support nationally, his recent actions in Rio have placed him in a negative spotlight internationally. Lochte, along with three other US swimmers, was reported to have stopped at a gas station in Rio, urinated on the side of the building, and engaged in a verbal confrontation with two security guards while intoxicated.

To cover up his actions, Lochte claimed that he was robbed at gunpoint at the same gas station, but still failed to properly report this incident to the US Olympic Committee. After further investigation was done to determine the legitimacy of Lochte’s claims, footage was found proving his story did not add up. Despite admitting that there may have been some inconsistencies in his claims, he persisted that his story still holds true.

Eventually Lochte realized he had to publically apologize, but still played the victim card.

“It’s traumatic to be out late with your friends in a foreign country,” Lochte said. “With a language barrier, and have a stranger point a gun at you and demand money to let you leave.”

Although now it is known that Lochte had lied about being a victim of robbery to cover up the fact that he vandalized a gas station, it’s imperative to acknowledge that this incident plays into much larger problems present in society.

This past year, Rio de Janeiro has become increasingly associated with violence due to the number of robberies occurring within the city. Crime was among one of the greater concerns, along with the Zika virus, against hosting the Olympics in Rio in the first place. Although the situation with Lochte has diffused, his actions played into this overarching fear foreigners have of Rio. This specific lie qualified the stereotypes associated with crime in Rio and provided the city with a worsened reputation, one that is definitely not justified.

Not only was Rio misrepresented, but so was America. As soon as news about this scandal leaked, attention was taken away from the actual Olympic games and was focused more on the supposed victims of robbery in a foreign country. A skeptical spotlight was shone on America as details about the incident unfolded and when it was discovered that Lochte’s claims were lies, America’s reputation worldwide was damaged.

Representing America internationally as an athlete in the Olympics puts a greater burden on an individual in terms of responsibility and accountability, but Lochte seemed to disregard that by presenting an entirely falsified explanation for his irresponsible behavior.

Initially, it may be difficult to blame Lochte due to the reputation and support he’s generated throughout his years competing for America, but it is absolutely crucial to recognize his actions, although seemingly minor, factor into a larger problem at hand. The way he chose to deal with the situation was entirely inappropriate and by acknowledging that, we avoid accidentally undermining Brazil and condoning behavior that is clearly wrong.