The criminal charge against American swimmer Ryan Lochte has been dropped after an appellate court in Brazil determined that he did not break the law by falsely reporting an incident that occurred at a gas station during last year’s Rio Olympics, USA Today reported.
Lochte was charged for exaggerating the details of an encounter with alleged thieves after he and three teammates had stopped at a gas station to use the restroom after a night of partying following the conclusion of the swimming competition at the Rio Games.
Lochte told NBC that he, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen had been stopped and robbed at gunpoint as the cab they were in pulled away from the service station.
Rio police later said the Olympians had vandalized the gas station bathroom by breaking a soap dispenser and mirror, and destroying a poster outside the restroom.
Police reported that the swimmers had lied about what happened and that no crime had been committed against them.
Lochte stood by his story and his lawyers fought to clear him of criminal charges, but a three-judge panel in a lower court upheld the charge 2-1.
An appeals court on Thursday ruled that Lochte did not break Brazilian law because Rio police, not Lochte, had initiated the investigation and that what Lochte said in his NBC interview could not be considered a false report.
The court has not yet published the decision and prosecutors have 15 days to challenge the ruling, according to the USA Today report.
Lochte lost sponsors and was suspended from the U.S. national swim team for 10 months over the scandal. His suspension ended July 1.
A USA Today Sports investigation following the incident determined that Lochte’s account of what happened at the gas station was substantially true, despite embellishments.
The investigation found that Lochte and has teammates had been detained by armed security guards, who drew their weapons and demanded that the swimmers pay them money for the alleged vandalism at the gas station.
The same investigation found no evidence of damage other than a poster that Lochte tore from a wall.
In an Instagram post last August Lochte apologized for his behavior that evening.
He lamented the fact that the story had been the focus of so much media attention following the Rio Games.
“I want to apologize for my behavior last weekend — for not being more careful and candid in how I described the events of that early morning and for my role in taking the focus away from the many athletes fulfilling their dreams of participating in the Olympics,” he said.
“It’s traumatic to be out late with your friends in a foreign country – with a language barrier – and have a stranger point a gun at you and demand money to let you leave, but regardless of the behavior of anyone else that night, I should have been much more responsible in how I handled myself and for that am sorry to my teammates, my fans, my fellow competitors, my sponsors, and the hosts of this great event.”
Lochte, 32, is the father of a one-month-old boy with fiancée Kayla Rae Reid.
He plans to compete in the 2020 Olympics.
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