Ryan Lochte's apology: So easy, so empty

Technically Incorrect: Now that surveillance camera evidence has proved his story of being mugged rather false, the Olympian posts an apology (of sorts) to Instagram.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

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Ryan Lochte. Does he think swimming through social media can rehabilitate his image?

Stephen Dunn

Performing a media pivot is just like taking a routine turn in the individual medley.

You reach the wall, head in the opposite direction and perform a completely different stroke.

So it is that Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte has decided to issue something that approximates an apology.

He took to Instagram on Friday to express his sorrow at last week's unfortunate turn of events.

"I want to apologize for my behavior last weekend," he wrote.

Some might translate this as: "My PR people just explained to me that I'm in deep doo-doo."

Should you have missed the essence of this tale, Lochte claimed he and three fellow swimmers, James Feigen, Gunner Bentz and Jack Conger were mugged by armed robbers posing as police officers.

His story began to seem less than believable with the emergence of footage that appeared to show one of the swimmers breaking down a bathroom door at a gas station and then all the swimmers being accosted by an armed security guard.

Lochte's Instagram apologia continued that he was sorry "for not being more careful and candid in how I described the events of that early morning."

Translation: "My PR people told me not to say I lied."

There's a rather large difference, you might think, between saying your wallet had been stolen and seeing something that looks like your wallet on surveillance footage subsequent to the alleged robbery still in, well, your own hands.

But on Instagram, you can polish your image as hard as you like.

Lochte now claims he didn't want to tell the (whole) truth until he was sure the other three swimmers had safely left Brazil. He had left Brazil quickly after his allegations. Conger and Bentz had been pulled off a flight home. Feigen has agreed to pay around $11,000 to charity before he can leave.

But on Instagram, you can seem very caring.

Lochte blames the trauma of being out late in a foreign country. He blames the language barrier.

Translation: "My PR people told me if I said this, you might have sympathy for me."

Not everyone on Instagram did.

"What a half ass apology," Anonymouse2000 mused. "You make Americans ashamed."

The United State Olympic Committee didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

However, the Guardian reported that the USOC issued a statement that didn't quite have the tone of Lochte's Instagram elegance.

It said of the swimmers: "They stopped at a gas station to use the restroom, where one of the athletes committed an act of vandalism. An argument ensued between the athletes and two armed gas station security staff, who displayed their weapons, ordered the athletes from their vehicle and demanded the athletes provide a monetary payment. Once the security officials received money from the athletes, the athletes were allowed to leave."

Ah, so the footage was candid.

Of course, Lochte's Instagram post is a PR exercise aimed at his fans and, most importantly, his sponsors.

Bloomberg reports that Japanese mattress manufacturer Airweave will stand by its man. Airweave didn't respond to a request for comment. Neither Ralph Lauren nor Marriott, two of his other main sponsors.

However, a Speedo spokeswoman told me: "Speedo is following the situation, and has a policy not to comment on ongoing legal investigations."

But can social media allow you to make such an easy "apology" and get away with it?

Or will cameras soon catch Lochte being a little less careful and a little more candid in real life?

Update, 3:30p.m. PT: Adds comment from Speedo.