US & Canada

Five times Ryan Lochte made a splash outside the pool

Ryan Lochte Image copyright Getty Images

Gold medal-winning Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte is embroiled in a bizarre scandal over an alleged mugging in Rio. But Americans are already familiar with some of his more outlandish extracurricular activities.

Though he won his first gold medal way back in 2004, Lochte achieved a new level of fame in 2012 in the build up to the London Olympics. He was declared an "Olympic sex symbol" by the New York Times, among others. After the games, he became something of a pop culture fixture in the states, more famous for his lifestyle and looks than his performance in the pool.

Here is a look back at some of the 12-time medallist's most memorable antics through the years.

1. The catchphrase

Lochte, 32, became known for exclaiming, "Jeah!" in celebratory or exciting moments. In one interview, he explained it is pronounced "chea" and credited its origins to the rapper Young Jeezy.

But that didn't stop him from trying to copyright the catchphrase just before the 2012 games. According to the application, Lochte may have been angling for a line of merchandise with the word on it.

However, according to TMZ, he was challenged by another rapper named MC Eiht, who claimed he'd been using "Jeah!" since the 1980s. Lochte ultimately abandoned the application.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Lochte sports his patriotic grill while accepting a medal in 2009

2. Grills

When he took the podium to accept a medal, Lochte often wore a set of custom jewelry over his teeth, known as a grill. This was particularly noticeable during the traditional medal-biting photo op.

At the 2012 games, he wore an American flag themed grill that cost $25,000, designed by a celebrity jeweller named TV Johnny and rapper Paul Wall. This fashion statement was controversial - some accused Lochte of cultural appropriation for borrowing a style pioneered by black rap and hip hop stars.

In an interview with GQ titled, "The De-Broing of Ryan Lochte", and conducted just before the Rio games, the swimmer called wearing a grill his "trademark" but also indicated he would conform to the fashions worn by his teammates (he also commented that he is done with "Jeah!").

3. Failed reality show

After the 2012 games, Lochte tried to capitalize on his new fame by starring in a reality TV show called What Would Ryan Lochte Do? The show promised an inside peek at Lochte's club hopping, love life and opulent lifestyle.

Although the initial episode attracted 800,000 curious viewers, that figure had dropped by over half by the finale. The show did not survive past its first eight-episode season.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption In 2012, Lochte boasted that he owned 130 pairs of sneakers. Some of the more extravagant ones made appearances at Olympic events

4. Party animal

Lochte enjoys a good party, and was caught plenty of times by the paparazzi leaving clubs looking worse for wear after the London games.

In 2012 Prince Harry challenged Lochte to a late-night swimming contest at a Las Vegas pool party. Lochte won.

This was the same night the Prince was photographed nude after playing strip billiards, but he and Lochte had parted ways by that point.

Lochte has been spotted more recently partying at the Playboy mansion.

However, he once told some incredulous TV reporters that it doesn't affect his focus: "If I go out all night and I go dancing and I'm drinking, I still have a job to do and I still have a goal to do."

5. "Sex idiot"

Lochte was self-aware enough about his spacey, party-boy reputation that he agreed to a cameo on the NBC show 30 Rock, in which he played himself. The show portrayed him as the shirtless consort of a much more successful woman, characterising him as her "sex idiot", a special class of beautiful, but utterly brainless sexual partner.

At the time, Lochte gushed about his connection with the show's male star, Alec Baldwin. "I get to play myself," he enthused.

Bonus: Even Donald Trump once weighed in on Lochte

After Olivia Culpo was crowned Miss Universe in 2012, pageant owner Donald Trump proudly boasted about the number of suitors the 20-year-old Culpo was turning away - that included Lochte.

"That swimmer is all over her like a puppy dog," Trump said. "She's rebuffed all kinds of celebrities ... She's a smart, good girl."