Ryan Lochte Calls His Behavior in Rio 'Immature' Amid Robbery Scandal
By Jennifer Drysdale
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Ryan Lochte is accepting responsibility for his actions.
The 31-year-old swimmer sat down with NBC's Matt Lauer for an exclusive interview to discuss the Rio robbery claims that made headlines, and while he maintains he had a gun "pointed in his direction," Lochte does call his behavior "immature."
"You told me on the phone, Ryan, you said, 'We are victims here. We are victims, and happy that we're safe.' In the police press conference, they said 'Not victims, they're vandals.' How do you feel about that?" Lauer asked Lochte in the interview.
"It's how you wanna make it look like. Whether you call it a robbery, whether you call it extortion, or us just paying 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."
While Lochte accepted responsibility for initially exaggerating his story, his conversation with the NBC anchor was noticeably tense.
Lauer proceeded bring up fellow U.S. swimmer Gunnar Bentz's recent statements, comparing the men's stories and quizzing Lochte on what exactly happened.
"At that point, you're striking a deal," Lauer said after Lochte admitted he knew the guard was asking for money in exchange for the alleged vandalism. "You're striking a deal to pay for what damage you've caused so that he doesn't call the police, and this doesn't become a bigger incident. Isn't that fair?"
"We just wanted to get out of there. We were held… I mean, there was a gun pointed in our direction. We were all frightened, and we wanted to get out of there as quick as possible," Lochte stated, defending himself. "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 this first version of the story you told, Ryan, was much more about the mean streets of Rio, and the version we're hearing now is much more about a negotiated settlement to cover up some dumb behavior,” Lauer responded, unsatisfied with Lochte's answer.
The Olympian initially reported to Today’s Billy Bush that the taxi he shared with Bentz, Jack Conger, and James Feigen was pulled over by men posing as police officers. His second account, which he told Lauer on the phone earlier this week, claimed that his taxi pulled over at a gas station so Lochte and his teammates could use the restroom.
"And that's why I'm taking full responsibility for it, is because I over-exaggerated that story, and if I had never done that, we wouldn't be in this mess," Lochte explained. "Those guys would never be in Rio, or were in Rio. None of this would have happened, and it was my immature behavior…"
As of Friday, all four swimmers associated with the robbery scandal are back in the U.S. Feigen was the last to return after paying nearly $11,000 in exchange for his seized passport. Brazil also attempted to seize Lochte's passport, but he had already returned home to the States.
Lochte's interview with Matt Lauer is set to air during NBC's prime time Olympic coverage on Saturday, with more airing on Monday, Aug. 22 on the Today show.