Ryan Lochte made his return to the pool last month at the 2019 Phillips 66 National Championships, his first official swimming event in over a year.
Lochte performed decently well for a 35-year-old coming off a long layoff, qualifying for the Olympic trials in 2020. He also revealed that after a stint in rehab, he was mostly staying away from alcohol.
The Ryan Lochte comeback tour is on, and it figures to continue Tuesday night with an appearance on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” in which the swimmer detailed just how far he fell in the aftermath of the scandal that rocked his swimming career and public perception.
Ryan Lochte says his reputation is ‘s---’
When asked by correspondent Jon Frankel if it’s fair for a reporter to describe his reputation as a “Grade-A doofus,” “irredeemable narcissist” and “Olympic village idiot,” Lochte said yes.
When looking back on the last three years, Lochte said his “immature behavior” had cost him friends, fans and money. Lochte didn’t hold back in discussing where the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and beyond had taken him. When asked to assess his reputation at this point, he used one word: “S---.”
The swimmer is, of course, known for triggering a minor international incident by embellishing a story of robbery at gunpoint at a Rio gas station. Police would later contradict him by saying Lochte and his friends had drunkenly vandalized the gas station bathroom and were merely asked to pay to cover the damages. The truth turned out to be somewhere in the middle, as a USA Today investigation found that Lochte was indeed held at gunpoint by guards and the bathroom was seen mostly unharmed days later.
Of course, that later news didn’t stop Lochte from immediately becoming an international icon of privilege and incompetence. Lochte told Real Sports on Tuesday the sponsors that fled in the aftermath still haven’t come back, and that the infamy took him to some dark places:
RYAN LOCHTE: There was points where if I went to sleep and I never woke up again, I’d be fine, because I wouldn’t be hurting people.
JON FRANKEL: You thought that if you just disappeared –
LOCHTE: If I just disappeared, it would be OK.
FRANKEL: And you don't mean disappear, just simply walk away from swimming and go find some hideout on the prairie.
LOCHTE: Disappear like ‘bye-bye.’
Lochte’s wife Kayla said that not only did Lochte receive death threats, she and the couple’s unborn baby were on the receiving end. She also recounted an incident in which a stranger threw a glass at her head.
Lochte said that a stint on “Dancing With The Stars” in fall 2016 helped somewhat rehabilitate his image. However, he experienced even more falls from grace when he triggered his own 14-month suspension by posting a picture of himself with an illegal IV and later drunkenly broke down a hotel door.
The latter incident was the impetus for Lochte checking into rehab. He admitted to reporters at the national championships last month he had a glass of wine when his second child was born, but has otherwise stayed away from alcohol.
Lochte says his goal is now to swim at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, though Kayla admitted to being worried if Lochte’s image rehab will be enough if he hits the big stage.
“We're out of the hole, but we're, like, being, like, ‘Is it OK to come out?’” she said.
Lochte will likely get his answer at the U.S. Olympic trials in June 2020, where he has qualified for four events.
The swimmer’s full interview airs Tuesday on HBO at 11 p.m. ET.
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