Jumping the gun on what really happened to Olympian Ryan Lochte

I’ve been watching CNN’s coverage of the ongoing, and confusing, tale of Ryan Lochte and his fellow Olympians who may, or may not, have been robbed in Brazil.

As you know, Lochte made it back to the states, but several of his teammates had their passports seized by the Brazilian authorities, and are now answering increasingly tough questions about what happened.

Lochte and company say they were held up by Brazilian cops.

Brazil says Lochte and his colleagues were drunk and vandalized a gas station.

Even though we’re still trying to figure out what happened, that didn’t stop USA Today columnist, and CNN commentator, Christine Brennan from calling for Lochte to be banned from sports for life.

Even though we have no idea what actually happened.

A few points:

1. Why lie? Why would Lochte and his colleagues make up a story about being robbed? If it didn’t happen, in some manner, it doesn’t really make sense that they’d lie about. What happened that would make them tell this story at all?

2. The video. I watched the video on CNN, and at one point, you see Lochte and his teammates put their hands in the air and sit down — clearly someone had them against their will. That does appear to back up some of Lochte’s story.


Surveillance video shows Ryan Lochte and fellow Olympians forced to sit down with their hands up.

3. Is it possible that both stories are true? That Lochte and company did vandalize the gas station, and that the gas station security guard then pulled a gun on them and demanded a pay off? Yes.

And if the latter happened, that would be consistent with Lochte’s story that he and his friends were held up by a cop.


AP on Lochte

So another aspect of Lochte’s story is confirmed. This doesn’t prove he told the entire truth, but it does suggest that a rush to judgment is premature.

Finally, the Brazilian police held a press conference today, and it was an utter disaster. The head of the police for the region was all over the place. First he said there was no evidence that Lochte and the other swimmers were “victims of violence,” including claiming they weren’t coerced to do anything, then he said, yeah, I guess a gun was involved. He also eventually said it’s possible someone extorted money from them at gunpoint.

Which was the entire point the Olympians were making from the beginning.

We don’t know yet what happened. And it’s irresponsible for anyone to claim that Lochte should be banned for life until we know what happened. It’s such an obvious point — get all the facts before you convict someone. But it’s one that’s often missed in this quick-to-judgment culture we live in.

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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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