Because if the latest reports are true — that Lochte made up a story that he and three other swimmers were robbed at gunpoint in Brazil, and instead tried to kick in a bathroom door at a gas station before being confronted by a security guard — that is an all-time ridiculous story. It starts with “why on earth would they do that?” and just keeps going and going.
But it’s not more ridiculous than the statement that was released by an official Olympics spokesman in the aftermath — after two of the swimmers who were yanked off an airplane had reportedly told Brazilian police that they made up the whole story. The statement said the swimmers didn’t need to apologize.
“Let’s give these kids a break. They made a mistake.” is an actual thing that the spokesman said.
Actually, you know what? Let’s not give them a break.
First, Lochte is 32 YEARS OLD. Under no definition does that make him a kid. He is a grown man who is eligible to vote for president in November.
For the fourth time in his life.
He’s been of legal drinking age in the United States for more than a decade. Even if you look at the sum of the rest of his life and experiences and conclude Lochte is in a state of arrested adolescence, that does not change that fact that he’s been an adult for a very long time.
Calling him and other swimmers “kids” could just be a catch-all term used by someone who views competitors that way. Or it could be symptomatic of a bigger problem: that elite athletes are often handled the way spoiled children are handled — giving them the impression that success in a enclosed rectangular pool is somehow an excuse for failure in life. And that creates the kind of privilege that certainly might contribute to someone thinking they can just lie about a crime without consequences.
Second, Lochte and his accomplices didn’t just make up a story. Lochte tried to make himself into some sort of swashbuckling hero with the details. “They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground — they got down on the ground,” Lochte told NBC News. “I refused, I was like, we didn’t do anything wrong, so — I’m not getting down on the ground. … And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, ‘Get down’ and I put my hands up, I was like ‘whatever.’“
This is the point that more of us probably should have been suspicious of the whole thing particularly since the very next paragraph of that story noted that a lot of details remained unclear. But a different instinct probably took over in many of us: an instinct that wouldn’t imagine something like this would be made up because, well, WHY?
The more details you try to add to a story, the more it sounds like a fabrication. It wasn’t enough for Lochte to try to make us believe he was a victim — playing nicely into the narrative of all the problems in Brazil with police and crime. He had to try to add to his legend in the process.
Public ridicule is a good start for the punishment Lochte and his fellow conspirators should endure. Let’s see what else Brazilian police have in mind when they hold a news conference this afternoon.