Speedo USA becomes the first major sponsor to drop Lochte

Ryan Lochte

(AP) – Ryan Lochte lost his first major sponsor when Speedo USA announced Monday it was dumping the swimmer over a drunken incident during the Rio Olympics that he initially described as an armed robbery.

In a brief statement, Speedo USA said it would donate $50,000 of Lochte’s fee to Save The Children to benefit needy youngsters in Brazil.

“While we have enjoyed a winning relationship with Ryan for over a decade and he has been an important member of the Speedo team, we cannot condone behavior that is counter to the values this brand has long stood for,” the swimsuit giant said. “We appreciate his many achievements and hope he moves forward and learns from this experience.”

At first, Lochte said he and three swimming teammates were robbed after their taxi was pulled over by armed men posing as police the night after the swimming competition ended in Rio de Janeiro.

He has since apologized for embellishing his version of events.

Speedo’s decision is likely to be only the first sanction Lochte faces over a night of partying that ended up tarnishing the reputation of the American team and dominating news away from the stadiums and arenas in the final days of the Rio Games, which ended Sunday night.

Both the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Swimming have indicated that Lochte will be punished, perhaps endangering the 32-year-old’s hopes of competing in a fifth Olympics at Tokyo in 2020. He could also face the wrath of his other sponsors, including Ralph Lauren and airweave premium bedding.

The trouble began when media reports emerged on Aug. 14 that Lochte and three other U.S. swimmers — Jack Conger, Gunnar Bentz and Jimmy Feigen — were robbed at gunpoint when their cab was pulled over by men posing as police. The incident caused a furor in Rio, where street crime was a major issue heading into the games.

Lochte, in an initial interview to NBC, said “these guys came out with a badge, a police badge, no lights, no nothing just a police badge and they pulled us over. They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground — they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn’t do anything wrong, so I’m not getting down on the ground.” He went on to say he was robbed of money and his wallet.

That version quickly unraveled when police said the swimmers never reported the incident to authorities and there was scant evidence of a robbery. Video surveillance emerged showing the swimmers getting into a confrontation with armed security guards over alleged vandalism at a gas station when their taxi pulled over to let the four athletes use the restroom. While there have been conflicting versions over whether the guards pulled their weapons on the swimmers, Lochte conceded that his behavior led to the confrontation, which resulted in the swimmers paying some $50 in U.S. and Brazilian currency before they were allowed to leave.

In his most recent interview with NBC, which was taped in New York and began airing this past weekend, Lochte said he “very intoxicated” and takes “full responsibility” for his behavior. He also apologized in an interview with Brazil’s main broadcaster, Globo.

“I over-exaggerated the story,” he told NBC. “If I had never done that, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

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