U.S. swimming scandal casts shadow over Rio, but Bolt still shines

The Olympics conclude this weekend, but the news coming out of Rio is still nonstop. Four U.S. swimmers who said they had been robbed now admit fabricating their story, while Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt could earn his ninth career gold. Also, the Paralympics are in jeopardy due to budgetary issues. Jeffrey Brown speaks to Christine Brennan of USA Today and NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro for details.

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    Now to Brazil and the Olympics, where the Games are heading into the final weekend on and off the fields of play.

    Jeffrey Brown has our update.


    Decorated American Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte apologized today for his behavior last weekend after videotapes and statements from other American swimmers contradicted Lochte's account of a supposed robbery at a Rio gas station.

    Meanwhile, on the track, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt showed he's still the fastest man on Earth, adding another 200-meter win to his 100 meters earlier this week. He goes for a ninth career gold medal today.

    And back with us from Rio, Christine Brennan, covering the Games for USA Today and as a contributor for CNN, and NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro.

    And welcome back to both of you.

    Christine, let's start with you and Ryan Lochte. He apologized without quite admitting that he had lied about what happened. Do we know, at this point, what happened?


    I don't know, Jeff, that we're ever going to know exactly what happened at that gas station in the early hours of Sunday morning.

    And I'm not so sure at this point if we need to. I mean, obviously, that will all be sorted out as best as the lawyers and everyone can do. The bottom line is, it's a story that basically just took over these Olympics and took coverage away from athletes who deserved it, all because these four Americans were out on a night on the town, apparently drunk, allegedly vandalizing a gas station, and then, obviously, this cover-up.

    And everyone, I think, is well aware of the story. But it just was a complete lack of where they should be and what they should do. You're a representative of the United States. I know our senses are so dulled by pro athletes, Jeff, that kind of say, well, they're always going to misbehave.

    Well, the U.S. Olympic Committee is very serious about this. USA Swimming is very serious about this. The notion that these guys created an international incident, and Ryan Lochte even spoke about it, he should have just kept quiet. This is going to haunt him for the rest of his life. And I think it will be — this is what Olympics — the swimming will be remembered, sadly, not as much as Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky in the first week.


    Well, and, Lulu, he is now possibly facing a suspension. But, in Brazil, the Brazilians haven't taken this well at all, correct? Tell us about the reaction. Tell us how it's played there.


    Well, as you can imagine, I think it's been treated with a great deal of fury and outrage and disgust.

    His actions are being seen as a symbol of the ugly American, and basically people here feel that the actions of the four Americans reflected very badly on the United States, reflected very badly on their Olympics.

    They feel very aggrieved, because all the focused was on Ryan Lochte having said that he had been assaulted. And it made these Olympics look very bad. And now they feel that he lied, he misrepresented what happened and that an apology, quite simply, is not quite enough. And the apology that he gave is being received here as not really an apology.

    They don't feel that he admitted what they feel is the truth, which is that he lied.


    Lulu, is there still any potential legal or diplomatic implications to come?


    Well, I think the diplomatic implications are that — have sort of been resolved.

    Certainly, three of the swimmers are on their way back to the States. And we understand that the other will be leaving shortly. And so, therefore, I think it has been smoothed over.

    The police do feel that they did their job. They investigated this. They showed to the world that, in fact, what Ryan Lochte and his cohorts said had happened had not happened. And so I think the Brazilian government, Rio's government and the police feel that they have shown that they are responsible and that this is a place that has the rule of law.

    So, I don't think it will go any further diplomatically.


    All right, so, Christine, back to sports now.

    Last week, you and I talked about swimmers in a different context, swimmers in the pool, and about gymnastics. And this time, I think we want to talk about one guy, this great runner, Usain Bolt.


    Oh, absolutely, Jeff.

    And for all the terrible things that the Americans did — and they will get suspended for it almost for sure — then you have got the joy of Usain Bolt, and winning the 100-meter for the third time. No man has ever done that before, Beijing, London and now Rio. He had to come from behind.

    Justin Gatlin had the lead with about 75 meters to go. No problem. But Usain Bolt could not dance and prance and look around at the end. He had to pretty much run through the tape, the finish line. And then coming back in the 200 meters, this is a difficult double under any circumstances. Usain Bolt turned 30 on Sunday, the day these Games end.

    And he's not a young man in this sport. And, as we know, he had a hamstring injury, and there's been a lot of questions. So, he's now done the 100, the 200, huge win, and if he gets the relay, the Jamaican relay, he will have an incredible triple-triple, three events, three different Olympic Games, and winning in them all.

    He has cemented himself as one of the greatest Olympians of all time.


    And, briefly, Christine, because we have also seen the continued dominance of American women, including in the medal count.



    Team Title IX, we saw it start in London, Jeff. We talked about it then. We're talking about it again now, Title IX, signed by Richard Nixon in June of '72, working it way through the generations, creating of all these great athletes, the girl next door who grows up and wins the Olympic U.S. medals.

    U.S. women are dominating, winning about 60, 61, 62 percent of the U.S. gold medals and also well over 50 percent of the U.S. total medals. And get used to it. It's going to keep happening over and over again.


    Well, so, Lulu, I want to come back to you, because we — you and I talked several days before the Games started about all the apprehension, lack of preparation, Brazil's economic problems.

    You even said to me, I remember, at that point that locals were ready to have it done with, even before it had started. So, what's your sense now of how people have responded? How has it gone over there?


    I think you can look at this in two ways. Certainly, when you speak to average Brazilians, they have fallen in love with the Olympics. They have really greeted it with a great deal of joy, once the opening ceremony happened.

    They really enjoyed seeing all the people here, and they enjoyed having the athletes compete. But, on the other hand, of course, there have been a number of problems, leaving Ryan Lochte aside, the fact that he might have invented what happened to him, but there have been assaults, there have been organizational snafus, empty seats, slow ticket sales.

    So I think the epitaph for these Olympics is going to be mixed. I think people will look at this on the one hand and say the Brazilians did the best that they could under very difficult circumstances, but, on the other hand, this wasn't an Olympics that a lot of people think was up to standard.


    And, briefly, still to come, there are some problems, Lulu, with the Paralympics.


    Well, this actually is a growing controversy, a great scandal. Basically, the Paralympic Games, which did so well in the last Summer Olympic Games in London, are now facing unprecedented — an unprecedented budget crisis.

    Basically, we have been told today that maybe 10 teams at least won't be able to make it here because Rio 2016 Organizing Committee doesn't have the money to pay for them to come. They're going to be slashing venues. They're going to be slashing transportation.

    And so what the head, the president of the Paralympics Committee said today was that, in his 50-plus years of being involved in this movement, he had never faced a situation like this. It is an absolute scandal, he said.

    And he's very concerned about how these Paralympic Games will go off.


    All right, Lulu Garcia-Navarro, Christine Brennan, thank you both very much from Rio.


    Thank you, Jeff.


    You're welcome.

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