Leave Ryan Lochte Alone
August 19, 2016 (Fault Lines) — The public castigation of U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte must come to an end. There is simply no place in our modern society to ask questions regarding the veracity of a victim’s story. All victims have the right to be heard, free from criticism, and believed. If we hold this standard for victims of campus sexual assault, we should certainly extend it to beloved American heroes like Ryan Lochte, robbed at gunpoint by unscrupulous thugs pretending to be Brazilian police.
It doesn’t matter that Lochte’s story started changing hours after he and his friends checked into the Olympic Village, apparently free from harm. It’s not like he managed to come up with a fiction ripped straight from a horrible torture-porn novel, either. Victim recollections can and do change over time, and the stress of either having a gun pointed to one’s head or in the general direction of one’s cranium can certainly cause your memory to go a little blurry.
So there’s video allegedly showing Lochte and his pals urinating on a gas station and destroying a bathroom. What difference does that make? There’s nothing that says we can’t stand behind a champion Olympian’s account of being robbed at gunpoint. After all, it’s important to allow Lochte time to recover from such an egregious violation of his person. It’s good that he’s back in the United States, where he can recoup and cooperate fully with Brazilian authorities to find the truth.
At the conclusion of this matter, even if it turns out all of the allegations were false, that Ryan Lochte and his cohorts made up the entire story of being robbed at gunpoint by fake security guards, there’s certainly no reason for any of them to suffer harm. They’re Olympic swimmers, and barring them from their chosen sport would certainly cause a “severe impact” on the rest of their lives and careers. Besides, even if the story is a complete fabrication, it serves as a jumping off point for a greater discussion about Olympic swimmers being robbed every four years. Isn’t that a dialogue worth having?
It’s time to end the victim blaming. Stop with the #LochteGate hashtag*, the presumptive “white privilege” arguments, and the continued shaming of a man who worked tirelessly to promote American exceptionalism on the world’s stage. If we can believe “Jackie” at UVA, we can certainly believe Ryan Lochte.
*If you simply must do the hashtag thing, why not #LochMess? Haven’t we had enough of *gate already?