UPDATE: Speedo USA, Ralph Lauren drop Lochte after Rio incident
Speedo is the first major company to drop its sponsorship of swimmer Ryan Lochte.
By PAUL NEWBERRY
AP National Writer
Ryan Lochte has lost two majors sponsors after Speedo USA and Ralph Lauren announced they are dumping the swimmer over a drunken incident during the Rio Olympics that he initially described as an armed robbery.
Both companies announced their decisions Monday, one day after the end of the games.
Speedo says it will donate $50,000 of Lochte's fee to Save The Children to benefit needy youngsters in Brazil. Ralph Lauren says its sponsorship of Lochte was specifically in support of the Rio Olympics and the contract will not be renewed.
Lochte initially said he and three swimming teammates were robbed after their taxi was pulled over by armed men posing as police. He has since apologized for embellishing what officials now say was a dispute over vandalism at a gas station.
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PREVIOUS STORY: Twelve-time medalist Ryan Lochte took "full responsibility" Saturday for the incident in Rio that landed him and three other American swimmers in hot water and tarnished Team USA's reputation during the 2016 Summer Olympics.
"I over-exaggerated that story," Lochte, 32, told NBC's Matt Lauer in an exclusive interview, a day after posting an apology online.
Lochte told Brazilian authorities — as well as Lauer — that he and fellow teammates Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and James Feigen had been robbed at gunpoint at a Rio gas station after a night of celebrating. As inconsistencies emerged in the account, skepticism grew.
Rio police refuted his story altogether earlier this week. Citing surveillance video and witness testimony, they said the swimmers had vandalized the gas station restroom, then had been confronted by security guards, who took out their weapons and told them to pay for the damage before leaving the gas station.
But Rio Police Chief Fernando Veloso denied the guards had used excessive force against the athletes.
Watch more from Matt Lauer's interview with Ryan Lochte Monday on TODAY
"They were not victims of the criminal actions that they claimed they were," Veloso said Thursday. "They fabricated a story."
In an interview with TODAY Sunday, Lochte said an armed robber pointed a gun at his forehead and cocked the weapon. In the interview that aired Saturday, Lochte said that was made up.
"That didn't happen and that's why — I over-exaggerated that part, " Lochte said. The gun was drawn and pointed in his direction but was never at his forehead, Lochte said.
Asked why he would make up the dramatic detail, Lochte said: "I don't know why." He added it was hours after the incident occurred and he was still intoxicated.
"I'm not making me being intoxicated like an excuse, I'm not doing that at all," Lochte said. "It was my fault and I shouldn't have said it."
Lauer asked Lochte why he had maintained they were "victims" in his statements to police and to the media.
"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," Lochte responded. "All we know is that there was a gun pointed in our direction, and we were demanded to give money."
According to the statement that his teammate Bentz gave authorities, a man who spoke English walked over and told the swimmers the guards were telling them to pay for the damage they caused, or else they would call the police. Lauer pressed Lochte on whether he understood what the guards were proposing.
"We just wanted to get out of there," Lochte said. "We were all frightened. And we wanted to get out of there as quick as possible. And the only way we knew is — this guy saying, 'You have to give him money.' So we gave him money, and we got out."
"What I'm trying to get at is the first version of the story you told, Ryan, was much more about the mean streets of Rio," Lauer told him. "And the version we're hearing now is much more about a negotiated settlement to cover up some dumb behavior."
"And that's why I'm taking full responsibility for it," Lochte said. "Because I over-exaggerated that story. And if I had never done that, we wouldn't be in this mess ... None of this would have happened. And it was my immature behavior."
The swimmer said "I'm just embarrassed" and "I know what I did was wrong" during the interview. He expressed remorse that the controversy became a distraction from the Olympic games.
Lochte also apologized to the people of Rio and Brazil. The fabrication was seen by some as especially insulting considering media coverage of the city's crime rate and pollution in the run up to the Olympic games.
"They put on a great games. The people of Rio or Brazil, the authorities, everyone there put on a great games. And my immature behavior tarnished that a little, and I don't want that," Lochte said.
"I'm just really sorry and I hope they can accept my apology," he said.
Lochte said that he hopes to continue his Olympic swimming career, if officials allow it.
"If they give me that chance I definitely know I can turn this around and become that role model for little kids," Lochte said. "I don't want little kids to look at me for what I just did, for that one night. I don't want that."
PREVIOUS STORY: Matt Lauer sat down with U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte for the first time since Brazilian authorities said he fabricated the story about being robbed in Rio.
The NBC exclusive interview will air during Olympic primetime coverage Saturday night. NBC Nightly News will also be airing a preview of the interview after Channel 3 Eyewitness News at 6.
NBC Olympics executive producer Jim Bell first tweeted about the interview Saturday morning.
Lochte is at the center of controversy in Rio after authorities said he and three other American swimmers vandalized a gas station bathroom after partying. The three were confronted by armed guards who demanded they pay money for the damages before they could leave.
Initially, Lochte's mother claimed he had been the victim of a robbery. The International Olympic Committee denied the robbery happened, but Lochte himself later came forward and claimed he and three other swimmers had been robbed, saying he should have been "more careful" that night.
Police later step forward to claim the robbery was a lie, and that the swimmers had vandalized a bathroom before being confronted by armed guards. Witness accounts claimed Lochte was acting unruly.
Lochte later came out and apologized for the incident. Gunnar Bentz, one of the American swimmers with Lochte, outlined the events to police, saying Lochte pulled a framed advertisement that was hanging on a brick wall and became belligerent after the guards pulled out their weapons.
"After Jack and I both tugged at him in an attempt to get him to sit back down, Ryan and the security guards had a heated verbal exchange, but no physical contact was made," Bentz said in his statement. "Ryan and the security guards had a heated verbal exchange, but no physical contact was made."
Bentz and another teammate, Jack Conger, were pulled off their plane Thursday before returning to the U.S. the next day. James Feigen, the swimmer who called in the robbery, was ordered to pay nearly $11,000 in damages for falsely reporting a crime.
The U.S. Olympic Committee called the incident a "distracting ordeal" during a time when other athletes were celebrating their big moments.
"The behavior of these athletes is not acceptable, nor does it represent the values of Team USA or the conduct of the vast majority of its members," said the statement from USOC CEO Scott Blackmun. "We will further review the matter, and any potential consequences for the athletes, when we return to the United States."
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