After making up a wild, fake robbery story at the Rio Olympics, Ryan Lochte became one of the most loathed athletes on Earth. And who could blame the public for hating his guts? He fabricated a story about his time in another country, making Americans, his temporary hosts in Brazil, and a laundry list of other people look bad in the process.
If you let Lochte tell the story of what has happened since, the public backlash to his made-up tale was enough to push him to the brink. In an interview with ESPN's Allison Glock, Lochte confided that he considered suicide in the time following the 2016 Olympics.
When Lochte arrived home in Charlotte (on what he says was a prescheduled flight), there were a dozen media vans outside his house. He watched the news, read the online comments, the searing articles outlining how "Ryan Lochte Is the Worst!" In days, he lost every sponsor. He also received death threats. At a public appearance, Reid had a glass thrown at her head.
"After Rio, I was probably the most hated person in the world," Lochte mumbles. "There were a couple of points where I was crying, thinking, 'If I go to bed and never wake up, fine.'" Asked if that means he considered suicide, Lochte nods slowly. "I was about to hang up my entire life."
It sounds like the swimmer was in a dark place after the controversy in Rio, and you would never wish for someone to feel like their only answer in life is to end everything. Almost everyone deserves a second chance to make good after indiscretions, and we've seen people in the sports world emerge from dark moments to inject some good into the world. Michael Vick and his post-prison activism for animal rights is a perfect example of how to take another chance a run with it.
That said, it feels a little off to be talking about Lochte as some sort of redemption story. Prior to admitting he had suicidal thoughts, he seemed to convey a lack of contrition for his actions. "People wanted a reason to hate me," he said. A more accurate version of events would be to say people expected a 32-year-old man to know better than to completely fabricate stories, or at least to show some remorse after he was caught doing so.
If Lochte wants to win back public favor, sharing his inner turmoil with everyone is definitely the way to go. People are happy to listen when you open up and express the troubles in life you've experienced, but that has to come attached to acknowledging his own fault in the Rio debacle.