U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte said he made a "very big mistake" when he claimed to have been held up at gunpoint during the Rio Olympics but thinks the ensuing scandal, which also involved three of his swimming teammates, was blown out of proportion.
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"I think it's everyone blowing this way out of proportion. I think that's what happened," Lochte, 32, said today on "Good Morning America" when asked whether he embarrassed the United States with his actions in Rio de Janeiro.
"Like I said, I did lie about that one part," Lochte said of his claim that a gun was held to his head at a Rio gas station. "I take full responsibility. I'm human. I made a mistake. A very big mistake."
Lochte returned home to Charlotte, North Carolina, shortly after the incident, while his teammates — Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and James Feigen — were held in Brazil by authorities. Bentz and Conger were pulled off their flight home to the United States for questioning before being released, and Feigen donated roughly $11,000 to a Brazilian charity to avoid prosecution.
"I reached out to Jimmy [Feigen], saying, 'I know you have to pay that fine. It is my fault.' I'm taking full responsibility for this, and I will pay that back if he will let me," Lochte said. Feigen has not spoken publicly since his return to the United States.
"I've reached out to everyone," Lochte said. "I think that was the most important thing that I did, because they mean so much to me. When I found out that they were pulled off the plane and everything that's happened to them in the media, that hurt me because I wasn't there. I wanted to be there, and I wanted to help."
Lochte said he left on his scheduled flight to the United States after being questioned by Brazilian authorities.
"Everything was perfect," he said. "They said, 'Congratulations on your gold medal,' and I left. They didn't say, 'You have to stay here,' or anything like that."
Brazilian police said that his story was a fabrication and that the Olympians were not robbed. The police alleged that the swimmers vandalized a bathroom at the gas station and were confronted by armed security guards who requested money for the damage.
Brazilian authorities have since charged Lochte with making a false police report in connection to the incident and have summoned him to give testimony for the investigation into the incident.
He said he is letting his legal team handle the charge as he tries to move forward.
"I mean, it's been dragged out way too long," Lochte said. "The media has taken this to a whole new level, and I just want to put this behind me and move on and move forward. I think the rest of the world wants this too. There's other, bigger issues that this world is facing."
He admitted to ripping a poster at the gas station but said claims that he vandalized a bathroom are "absurd" and false. He said he was still intoxicated when he said the next day that a gun was put to his head during the robbery.
"I was still going through the emotions of having a gun pulled at me," Lochte said. "I'm human. I made a mistake, and that's something that I'm going to have to live with."
Amid the scandal, he was dropped by four sponsors, including Ralph Lauren and Speedo.
He described the weeks after the Rio incident as the "lowest point of my life."
"The emotional part is the hardest thing," he said. "It's been really hard, but the fans, my family, my friends, they've all been really positive, keeping me going, and that's what I want to do."
Lochte is now turning his attention outside the pool, announcing today that he will be a celebrity competitor on season 23 of "Dancing With the Stars."
"I'm never one to dwell on the past," he said. "Everyone has got to be sick and tired about hearing about this. I just want to move forward."
ABC News' Tom Liddy, David Caplan and Dean Schabner contributed to this report.