The full story on Lochte and company seems to have emerged now. They went to a party, got drunk, had to pee, and went to a gas station (at 6AM), but the bathroom door was locked. One of them broke open the door, and was subsequently accosted by a security guard. The guard and the store owner demanded payment from the four swimmers, and the four swimmers paid up.
That would have been the end of the story (which we would likely never have heard about), except that the 32-year-old Lochte then felt obliged to lie to his mother about what had happened, and concocted a story about how they had been robbed at gunpoint. Lochte's mother then told the press about it, and Lochte ran with the lie. (What sort of 32-year-old needs to lie to his mother about why he's been out late?) And then the other three swimmers felt obliged to support Lochte's tale.
Maybe the worst part of the story was that Lochte claimed that when the men first pulled guns, the other three swimmers immediately got facedown on the ground but that he, knowing he had done nothing wrong, refused. It was only when someone held a gun to his head that he acquiesced. (How brave!)
Even non-swimming fans already had a vague sense of Lochte's personality. But even as a swimming fan, I had very little sense of the other three. I had read a Q and A with Jimmy Feigen on Reddit a week ago, and was surprised at how commonsensical and smart he sounded. My very superficial impression of Jack Conger was that he was reserved and modest. Gunnar Bentz I knew absolutely nothing about.
Lochte has always come across like an amiable dunce -- but not a liar. He had reputation -- unlike Michael Phelps -- for being willing to stick around at meets for hours afterward signing autographs for the kids. (In fairness to Phelps, I've heard that he can't go anywhere without everyone wanting selfies with and autographs from him.)
Lochte's taste in music, which runs to rap, and in clothes, which run to senselessly loud, speak for themselves. But not having a high IQ is not a crime. Until this incident, Lochte's worst sin had been to be 32-going-on-15.
The problem is, most 15-year-olds have no sense of the larger picture. And the eternal teenager has now set off an international incident, something he never intended. It's going to be made worse because there is no group of people more sensitive about their national reputation than Brazilians, as I wrote about here and here. All Brazilians will take Lochte's lie as a personal slight. From now on when Lochte, Feigen, Conger, and Bentz compete internationally, the Brazilian contingent will undoubtedly boo them.
The four swimmers were simply in search of a fun night, not thinking of themselves as four ambassadors of goodwill from the USA, which as Olympic athletes they effectively were. They're certainly going to need all of their diplomatic skills now. They'd better get on their knees now and bow and scrape and then bow even deeper.
You have to feel a little bad for Conger and Bentz, both of whom just went along with what the older superstar wanted. Their choice was either to publicly call Lochte a liar, or back him up. They went with team loyalty, misguided as it might have been this case, and they will pay the price for that for a long time. (Feigen, 26, I'm less sure about.)
As for Lochte, he'll be remembered for the lie which didn't have to be told, which he told anyway.