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Why are the Olympic Swimmers In Trouble in Brazil?

As usual, I have no idea. But I can guess.

Here are some of the rather sketchy “facts” that have emerged so far:

Ryan Lochte was out with some of his other superstar swim team members for a night on the town after completing his grueling week in the water, winning medals and flashing his winning smile all over TV’s around the world. Not to mention the years and years of hard core constant exhausting training he went through to get there in the first place. Now he was finished… for now. Can anyone find it horrible or surprising that he might be out blowing off some steam with his teammates?

So maybe that explains why he was posting photos of himself taken in the wee hours, partying it up with the French Olympians at their big ‘do’ somewhere in Rio. After that photo, I believe the next time anyone initially sees Ryan and Company, they are clearing security back at the Olympic Village Ranch later that same morning, just in time for breakfast.

But, apparently a funny thing happened on the way back to the Village.

Ryan went on TV the next day to explain that he and his buddies had been robbed at gun point, a gun held to his forehead after men flashing badges side-swiped the cab they were in and forced them to pull over. Ryan flew home shortly thereafter.

When his swim team buddies, Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger, later tried to do the same they were pulled off of their plane before it could take off, informed that they were being investigated for some sort of false reporting, and ordered to remain in Brazil while the investigation is pending.

A new detail that is just surfacing is Closed Circuit video purporting to show the four swimmers in some sort of dispute with security guards at the gas station where this supposedly happened. The guards claimed that the swimmers were causing property damage – another classic late night antic I sometimes see in my work. Boys will be boys and all that. This little detail is pretty interesting dontcha think?

Finally, Lochte talked to reporters yet again, now safe at home in America, this time changing his story to say that the gun was pointed at him, not stuck to his forehead, and that they were stopped after their cab let them out to use the restroom at the gas station, not sideswiped and forced to pull over.

I am intentionally focusing on Lochte here, because he has been the main actor dealing with the media on this among the swimmers, not an insignificant detail in and of itself.

So, what is going on?

Again, I have no idea. But, of course, I can make some educated observations based on my experience as a criminal lawyer, since I review sketchy fact patterns and inconsistent statements all day, every day. There is not much that I have not seen, including people out late at night getting into compromising situations that they don’t want to have to explain later. It happens.

Usually it involves sex or drugs or violence, or some combination of those three. I suspect something like that is going on here, but that might be too cynical. It’s just that it sort of screams hookers or drugs to me. That’s what it normally is that time of night when people are changing their stories all over the place.

It was fun to see the reporters arguing over whether the details that Lochte changed were significant, once again demonstrating their complete incompetence when it comes to understanding legal concepts. Simply put, of course the details are significant Matt Lauer, you moron! The only question is what is their significance?

Let’s start with the fact that Lochte seems to be the self-appointed mouthpiece. The other swimmers are all younger and less experienced than Lochte, the second most decorated Olympic swimmer in history, after Michael Phelps, who says he was dead asleep during all of this.

Bentz is 20, Conger is 21, and Jimmy Feigen, the fourth swimmer who was with them when they were “robbed” and also stuck in Brazil, is 26. Lochte is 32. Plus Lochte has more medals than the rest of them combined. See where this is going? Lochte is obviously the ringleader, or whatever. He is a very important guy and the other three will probably do and say as they are told by their more senior, more famous, more successful colleague.

I can see it now… Hey Fellas! Let’s say we were robbed by these guys who are actually detaining us for vandalism. That’s a plan! After a night of drinking and who knows what else, they probably thought that sounded like a great idea. Another tell-tale sign of late night antics gone wrong: bad judgment.

You also have to look at the reactions of some of the other swimmers to this bizarre news. The fact that Phelps and others, like Nathan Adrian, a nice Washington State native (yay), have gone to great lengths to point out that they had nothing to do with this, is not irrelevant. They are definitely not rushing to the aid of their (possibly) bad boy teammates. Is it possible that they might know a thing or two about what these guys get up to in their free time?

We criminal defense lawyers have a saying we like to use: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. There is definitely some smoke obscuring the details here, so get ready for the fire to heat up. It’s coming.

There are plenty of typical criminal case issues going on here.

The gun? Simple. Weapons focus happens when you have a gun pointed at you. All you look at is the gun. Normally this is great for cross-examination of identification witnesses. When a robber points a gun at you, you look at the gun to see if it is gonna kill you, not the robber’s face. It is odd that Lochte’s statement changed when it came to the gun, something he should have been paying close attention to.

So maybe not so simple.

There are also issues about the demeanor of the athletes when they are going through security at the Village after this happened. To me that is not very important since everyone reacts differently to emergencies. I tend to be calm, going into auto pilot mode, while others tend to run around screaming when they find themselves in similar situations.

I do think the fact that Lochte not only changed his story not just about the gun, but about the whole being side-swiped and forced to pull over claim, to be really important. No weapons focus theory in the world can explain that discrepancy; lying is a better explanation.

Another common feature found in people who are reporting sketchy behavior.

I also said that hookers and drugs come to mind when I hear how sketchy this all sounds. Which is why it is never a good idea to lie to the cops. Because when I drill down on the latest details emerging I have a much more mundane explanation that I bet will develop now. I think this was all about a potty break.

Turns out the gas station rest room where the four swimmers were allegedly robbed had a sign on the bathroom saying, “No Entry”. Hmmmm. Video shows the swimmers running into the bathroom, obviously desperate to “go”. It then shows an attendant approach the bathroom door and look in with one of those “what the heck are they doing?” kind of looks. Then he sort of ushers them out. It’s not brain surgery, like so many of these incidents.

So, maybe, there you have it.

Four hard working successful athletes go out for fun, and get in trouble when they take an emergency bathroom break. Then they lie about it. On international television. What could have been a very simple minor prank then becomes an international incident that could ruin the careers and reputations of these four. What a shame.

The moral of this story, if I am right? Don’t lie to cops! Better yet, don’t talk to them in the first place. Here we call it the Fifth Amendment. Brazil apparently has similar protections.

So, better to remain silent and be thought the fool, than speak and remove all doubt, I always say. And I suspect that Ryan Lochte and his buds are feeling more than a little foolish right about now.