The instantly infamous ‘Lochte Mugging’ in Rio has become an international incident spinning out of control… While his three American compatriots are left scrabbling to get their stories straight in front of an unamused host nation, the ringleader and superstar is somewhere stateside with a lot of explaining to do… 

Congrats, boys. You’re part of one of the most successful and inspiring U.S. swim teams in history. A team packed with rookies, that entered Rio under a forecast of fading American swimming prospects. Instead, Team USA stepped up beyond all expectations. They collected an astonishing 33 medals in the pool in Rio, and this without two of their four superstars (Missy Franklin and Lochte himself) showing up much at all. U.S. swimmers always seem to dominate, but this was a special, transcendent team. Congrats, boys, you were part of that. You should be proud.

Except now, based on a few hazy drunken hours over the weekend, your team’s performance is no longer the headline. Your behavior – and your sketchy truthiness – is the thing that’s making international headlines. What the hell happened that night? Were all four of you blackout drunk? At this point, I hope so. Because that’s looking better than the alternative – that you collectively lied about something that has embarrassed and offended both your country and your Olympic host.

Ryan Lochte, Jimmy Feigen, Gunnar Bentz, and Jack Conger – now’s the time to start talking. Your stories weren’t straight the first time you told it, and now the security footage is coming in, and that’s looking pretty damning.

Look, I don’t doubt that you were robbed. I don’t doubt that a gun was pulled. I don’t think you made this whole thing up from whole cloth. Why would you? There’s nothing to gain, and everything to lose. But it does seem as though you weren’t entirely honest about how it all went down.

The security footage from the gas station has been tracked down now. You guys were seen tangling with a Brazilian security guard and kicking in a bathroom door. The New York Post is saying you “lied about robbery to cover up gas station brawl.”

Lochte, the story you told Matt Lauer yesterday does not match up to the tale you told Billy Bush a few days ago. You’ve gone from having a gun cocked and pointed at your forehead to waving in your ‘general direction.’ Whatever, right? There’s a slight difference.

Guys, this is the number one, lead story on the New York Times website right now. It’s become a Major Story. One that has cast one hell of a shadow over your teammates’ achievements last week in the Olympic pool. Conger and Bentz, how did it feel to be yanked off your plane home before it could lift off to safety? The pic of you two at the Rio airport is classic perp walk. Jimmy Feigen didn’t show up for his flight; he’s reportedly holed up somewhere in hotel unknown.

The three of you are about to have a very uncomfortable ugly few days in Rio, while your veteran ringleader is back in the good old U.S. of A. Not that this might make you bitter or anything. I mean, it was Lochte who sparked this whole thing, by telling his mom one thing, then officials another, then one journalist one thing, then another journalist another, then… hell, can’t we just go back to the blackout drunk card yet?

From afar, we must admit, this whole thing is pretty funny. I mean, no one was hurt thankfully. No harm, no foul, right? It’s even sparked a series of pretty hilarious memes. (Cartman’s classic “Screw You Guys, I’m Going Home” was almost too easy; Brian Williams reporting: “So, there I was, robbing Ryan Locthe”, now that one was inspired…)

It seemed pretty funny to you guys too, on that security footage of you returning to the Olympic Village a few minutes before 7am. Note – after a night of hard partying anyone can be forgiven for confusing, say, 2am with 4am. Sometimes the arms of the clock start spinning when you really get after it. But confusing dark-of-night 4am with sun-up 7am?

C’mon guys. Would it have been so terribly hard to get your stories straight? Lochte, did you really have to play that vacant hero card? Refusing to get down on the ground because you “didn’t do anything”, and then shrugging in the face of near-death with cocked gun to your head and muttering the worst “whatever” of your life?

It would all be hilarious, a classic Olympic tale for your buddies back home, if not for the fact that some folks do not find this funny at all. In case you haven’t noticed, Brazil is rather sensitive about its reputation these days. It’s endured months of media telling the world that it’s unfit to host these Olympics. It’s too broke, too infected, too dangerous to play host to these Games. And maybe it is. The aftermath is sure to be awful. The billions of debt and all its swept-under-the-rug problems are going to be waiting for them when that torch goes out next week. They know it, the world knows it. They do not want to be reminded of its earned reputation as a sinister city of the night.

Not now, and certainly not by one of the most famous faces in the entire Olympics. If Ryan Lochte and three American teammates got mugged at gunpoint that would be a serious black eye for this host city. You’d better believe they’re going to take it seriously. Sure, the cops and the taxi drivers are frequently complicit and corrupt, and it’s not so unusual for things exactly like you first described to happen on a Rio street late in the night.

Except, this time, it seems clear that it didn’t happen exactly as you first described.

I believe you in part. I believe that someone took your money and that there was a gun present. That counts as a robbery and that does make you a ‘victim’ in a situation that clearly spun out of control.

Aside from that, the whole truth may never emerge. Now a new narrative has taken over: The entitled American champions are lying and making us look even worse.

There’s a storyline that no one wanted in Rio.