US & Canada

Ryan Lochte: US falls out of love with the ultimate 'bro'

Poster calling Lochte a liar in Rio stadium Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The swimmer's reputation is in tatters

Ryan Lochte's tall tale of robbery and his subsequent flight have united Brazilians and Americans in contempt.

Brazilian officials are angry that the US swimmer smeared Rio police at a sensitive time, while the US is reflecting on the excesses of the "bro" culture Mr Lochte is seen as representing.

It is a culture in which, stereotypically, sporty louts or jocks behave obnoxiously with little care for the consequences.

Such antics besmirch America's image abroad and highlight its divisions at home, commentators say.

Five times Ryan Lochte made a splash outside the pool

US swimmers case in Rio: What we know

Image copyright New York Post

What really happened was that Mr Lochte, 32, and his fellow swimmers vandalised a toilet door at a petrol station before having a gun pulled on them by a security guard.

Yet Mr Lochte then inexplicably cast himself as a hero and claimed the group had been held up by men in police uniforms.

"They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground - they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn't do anything wrong, so - I'm not getting down on the ground," he told NBC.

'Everything the world hates about Americans'

His casual reference to the stereotype that Rio is lawless and its police force corrupt infuriated Brazilian officials already reeling from a string of actual robberies on athletes.

Rio had been "stained by a fantastical version", police chief Fernando Veloso said.

Now the truth has emerged, it is Americans who are unleashing their fury.

In a piece entitled "Ryan Lochte is everything the world hates about Americans", sports writer Mike Vaccaro said Mr Lochte had lived down to all the worst stereotypes about Americans abroad.

"He cried wolf and was called on it, and that will be his burden to bear for a good long while - but not his alone. The 'Ugly American' is alive and well in 2016 thanks to this dope," Mr Vaccaro wrote.

Image copyright New York Daily News

In the Washington Post, columnist Sally Jenkins accused him of a lack of respect both to the host nation and his fellow swimmers, who were initially blocked from leaving Brazil.

Mr Lochte was the "dumbest bell that ever rang" and represented a "special category of American bro", Ms Jenkins said.

"Is there anything worse, in any country, than a bunch of entitled young drunks who break the furniture and pee on a wall?" she wrote.

"For an American athlete to try to humiliate his host in order to cover his own stupidity is the very definition of 'Ugly American'," said Ann Killion in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Privileges for the 'bros'?

Once back in the US Mr Lochte appeared oblivious to the growing row, tweeting about the colour of his hair and posting a video of him talking to a fellow swimmer that he later deleted.

Olympic officials also tried to gloss over the incident - "Let's give these kids a break. They had fun, they made a mistake, life goes on," said Rio 2016 spokesman Mario Andrada.

But many on social media said the initially indulgent attitude towards Mr Lochte demonstrated a form of privilege that might not have been extended to female or black Americans.

They pointed to the vilification online of black US gymnast Gabby Douglas, excoriated by some social media users for not putting her hand to her heart as the US national anthem played during a medal ceremony.

Image copyright @tmzanthony
Image copyright @sadesellers
Image copyright @wendybrandes
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Image copyright @gabebergado

Why did he do it?

The US Olympic Committee has since apologised for Mr Lochte and the other swimmers' "unacceptable" behaviour and many now believe Mr Lochte's career could be over.

It is a career that - despite his impressive haul of six Olympic medals, including four golds - has always played out in the shadow of the world's greatest swimmer Michael Phelps, says Mr Vaccaro.

He was always "the other guy" and "had to resort to his inherent goofiness to stand out", Mr Vaccaro wrote.

But he is now "done as a public figure", Ms Jenkins said, and this was in her view "probably the most effective form of justice for someone who apparently so craves attention".

Who are America's 'bros'?

The term "bro" has "evolved into a shorthand for a specific kind of fratty masculinity", according to US public radio, but also a "generalised expression of fatigue with the wielding of white-male power", according to critic Wesley Morris in the New York Times.

"Fratty" refers to US college fraternities, whose culture of partying and drinking has been in part blamed for high rates of sex assaults against female students, and linked to the brutal and occasionally deadly hazing of new recruits.

The NPR profile found bros to be mainly white and divided into several subsets - "jockish", "dudely", "preppy" and "stoner" - and at the centre of this nexus was none other than Mr Lochte.

"He's a jock. He has a stoner affect. He competes in a preppy sport. He tweets pics of him and his dudes doing bro-ass things. So you can see why Lochte is the platonic ideal of bro-dom," NPR said.

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