How Lochte looks to me

When I was 13 years old I met Ryan Lochte. It was a dark night at some random party at the 2012 London Olympics, and because my dad is a former Olympian, we were allowed special VIP access. I remember two things from Lochte — he was the only Olympian who was kind enough to stop and take a picture with us, and he smelled really good. For years I’ve had bragging rights about meeting the famous swimmer, and our quick exchange is something that I won’t forget. So what he did recently really shocked me.

If you didn’t hear what happened in Rio, here’s the run-down.

Lochte lied to the press and said he and a few of his teammates were robbed at gunpoint by Brazilians who were pretending to be police.

Here is what actually happened:

Lochte and his teammates showed up at a gas station late at night and vandalized it by breaking the bathroom door and peeing on the building (all caught on camera). A security guard demanded money from them to fix repairs, and when they refused, he pulled a  gun on them.

The first thing I thought when I heard about the Lochte incident was that it had to be a misunderstanding, and for some reason I convinced myself that what he did wasn’t wrong. I seemed to be subconsciously telling myself that this powerful male figure had just made a mistake and that he really was a great guy, like the nice man that I met once. But then I questioned my thinking. Was I telling myself that Lochte was a good person because I had met him? Because of the media? Because he’s a white male? Was I training myself to forgive white males despite the extremities of their wrongdoings? Did I forget that Lochte LIED about a robbery and gave a lame apology after they caught him? Yet somehow, deep in my heart, I felt that he was innocent and he was being treated badly. After dissecting my thoughts a little more, I decided that I was wrong. I felt that Lochte deserved the punishment he got (sponsors dropped him, he was publicly humiliated, etc.).

But why did I convince myself that Lochte was such a good guy? Would I have done the same if Lochte was black or a woman? I came to the conclusion that because of the sexist and racist issues that society still has, people are still subconsciously taught to worship white men in power. Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas is currently being cyber bullied on social media for being black and not putting her hand over her heart during the national anthem. On the other hand, Lochte is being forgiven and told “he just made a mistake” after he lied and vandalized a gas station. See the problem here?

I think one of the only solutions to issues like these is to really think twice about certain situations and evaluate what happened. Do I think Lochte is a monster? Of course not, but I don’t think we should be too quick to excuse his behavior. I think Lochte is sort of a loser. Sure, he won gold, but the way he lied and exaggerated a story of him being robbed with a gun to his head is a little much. I get it, everyone makes dumb mistakes. Lochte confessed to getting  wasted and messed around at a gas station. Who doesn’t have an adolescent story like that? The real mistake that Lochte made was lying about the situation and leaving out important key points.

I used to look up to Lochte, and I felt like I could root for him because I met him. But now that I think about it — why should we idolize someone because they’re athletic? Shouldn’t we praise someone for breaking barriers like Simone Manuel? Or for someone like Nikki Hamblin who showed sportsmanship when she helped Abbey D’Agostino finish a race after she was injured?

Although I am disappointed in him, I still have hope for Lochte. I think the backlash of consequences (losing all of his sponsors) will give him some perspective and teach him a lesson about how to act like an adult in certain situations. And it’s not like he lost ALL of his sponsors. He recently got an endorsement from Pine Bros. cough drops! Their new slogan is “Just as Pine Bros. is forgiving to your throat, the company asks public for a little forgiveness for an American swimming legend.”