Vahe Gregorian

Ryan Lochte’s false reality is an embarrassment to USA and insult to Brazil

Surveillance from the night U.S. swimmers allege they were robbed in Rio

Brazilian authorities allege that Ryan Lochte and three other Team USA swimmers got into a fight with a gas station employee the night that they say they were robbed at gunpoint. Brazilian authorities say they tried to cover up the fight with the
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Brazilian authorities allege that Ryan Lochte and three other Team USA swimmers got into a fight with a gas station employee the night that they say they were robbed at gunpoint. Brazilian authorities say they tried to cover up the fight with the

Technically, the last episode of the Ryan Lochte reality television series aired on May 27, 2013.

But the last few days in Rio have made for a regrettable encore to the forgettable eight-show project called “What Would Ryan Lochte Do …”

The twist is that surveillance cameras have created a far more revealing reality than the purported ones that cease to be authentic the minute a camera is knowingly introduced.

While Lochte no doubt wishes otherwise now, this has become a doozy of an episode that fuses together many of the fascinating themes of the original:

“What Would Ryan Lochte Do … If He Got Plastered?” (episode 4).

“What Would Ryan Lochte Do … When Family Gets Involved?” (episode 6).

And, of course, “What Would Ryan Lochte Do … On Spring Break?” (the finale).

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Add up these greatest hits, and you get this miserable mess that remains cloudy but has become clearer with the release of videos and a police briefing Thursday.

They repudiate the alarming initial claim of Lochte that he and three U.S. swimming teammates had been robbed at gunpoint and point, instead, to the swimmers being vandals, not victims,

“We saw our city stained by a fantastical version (of the truth),” Rio police chief Fernando Veloso said at a news conference Thursday at which it was announced the four could be charged with vandalism and false reporting of a crime.

Indeed, Lochte’s first-take version of the story now stands somewhere between exaggeration and fabrication.

The night out has more and more the appearance of the group engaging in moronic drunken behavior and being made to pay for it directly or indirectly with the threat of a gun by a security guard or guards doing their jobs.

Plastered … on spring break … and then he gets his family involved.

In fact, the story and the firestorm it’s created may never have emerged had Lochte not inexplicably felt compelled to call his mother and either lie or embellish it.

Never a good idea.

All the more so if Mama is prone to saying it out loud or sharing it with the press or however it was it went from her mouth to becoming a phony international incident.

Check that:

It’s still an international incident, just one that is all about the boorishness of a U.S. athlete who shamelessly thought it best to save himself some embarrassment by playing victim.

After all, why not blame it on Rio, instead?

That was a convenient – and malicious, really -- narrative in a city confounded by the burdens of putting on an Olympics amid an economic meltdown that has triggered a spike in crime.

So, yes, run up the score on that overmatched mark in a place where what’s real is approximate and your tall tale might not be contradicted.

Why not put it on them than own it yourself as a 32-year-old, 12-time Olympic medalist from the gleaming USA?

It’s true that other than Hope Solo and Lochte and his cohorts, there has been much for Americans to be proud of here in the achievements and decorum of their athletes.

But he’s still one of ours, too, much as we’d like to distance ourselves for so many reasons.

Not the least of which is the crying wolf element.

These things tend to cast unfair doubt on what true victims are undergoing, and, in this case the surrounding carnival has further detracted from thin resources badly needed for those actually suffering or in trouble.

All because of this nonsense:

“We got pulled over, in the taxi, and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge. No lights, no nothing, just a police badge, and they pulled us over,” Lochte told NBC on Sunday. “They pulled out their guns. They told the other swimmers to get down on the ground.”

Then he was unable to resist some gratuitous extra bravado in his artistic license of … reality.

“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 added. “The guy pulled out his gun. He cocked it, put it on my forehead and he said, ‘Get down.’ I put my hands up. I was like, ‘Whatever.’ He took my wallet. He left my cell phone. He left my credentials.”

They say one way to detect a lie is too many unnecessary details, and with the benefit of hindsight there sure seem to be a lot of those from a moment that would have induced panic more than clarity.

Considering the hungry market for cell phones here, too, and the fact any would-be thief allowed him to keep it was a confusing component of the story from the start.

Sure, there are some gaps in the videos and maybe we’ll never know every granular detail of how this unfolded.

But even if you somehow rationalize a pass for Lochte as just being a dope or oblivious or self-absorbed or in the throes of demon alcohol or auditioning for a reality series based on “The Hangover,” even if you say some parts of his story may actually be true and that in his heart he was threatened, there is no getting around another dishonorable aspect of what he’s done.

As originally scheduled, his attorney stressed to USA Today, Lochte promptly made his way out of the country.

So it was only coincidence that he made his was out just before a judge would order his passport seized as more questions about what really happened were swirling and video emerged of the group returning to the Athletes’ Village seemingly untroubled.

So with teammate James Feigen (26) still in Brazil at an undisclosed location and young teammates Jack Conger (21) and Gunnar Bentz (20) soon to be detained at the airport on Wednesday, we found out the answer to the latest version of Lochte’s reality.

“What Would Ryan Lochte Do … If Teammates Were In Trouble In Another Country After Partying With Him And He Got Out While The Getting Was Good?”

Answer: Instead of coming clean, he’d double down on himself.

That’s basically what he did in an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer in which Lauer said Lochte had “softened” or “stepped back” elements of the story – including that the gun had been pointed in his direction, not cocked at his head.

But he still insisted they’d been robbed.

Asked about the inconsistencies in details, Lauer said he believed Lochte saw it as a “traumatic mischaracterization.”

At least it was a dramatic one from someone whose actual reality has insulted one country, embarrassed another, hurt friends and demands an apology to all – belated as it might be.

Vahe Gregorian: 816-234-4868, @vgregorian

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