— -- Ryan Lochte and three other U.S. swimmers were handed varying punishments today for their involvement in a highly publicized incident during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro last month.
In a joint statement, the United States Olympic Committee and USA Swimming announced that Lochte, 32, has been suspended from the sport for 10 months and will have to miss the 2017 national and world swimming championships. He must also perform 20 hours of community service.
Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen have been suspended from the sport for four months. Bentz, 20, must also perform 10 hours of community service for violating a USA Swimming Olympic Village curfew for athletes under 21, the statement said.
The four swimmers will not receive a monthly stipend during their suspensions and are barred from accessing U.S. Olympic Committee training centers and other facilities. The sanctions are effective immediately, according to the statement.
“As we have said previously, the behavior of these athletes was not acceptable. It unfairly maligned our hosts and diverted attention away from the historic achievements of Team USA,” U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun said in a statement today. “Each of the athletes has accepted responsibility for his actions and accepted the appropriate sanctions.”
The suspensions come after Lochte’s recent apology for “overexaggerating” his claim about being held up at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro after leaving a party during the Olympic Games. The 12-time Olympic medalist initially called the incident a robbery, saying a man pointed a gun at his head at a gas station and demanded money from him and teammates Bentz, Conger and Feigen.
But police in Rio said Lochte’s story was a fabrication and that the swimmers were not robbed. Rather, police alleged they vandalized a bathroom at the gas station and were confronted by armed security guards who requested payment for the damage done.
“It’s our responsibility to take action that reflects the seriousness of what happened,” USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus said in the statement today after announcing the suspensions. “Unfortunately, this storyline took attention away from the athletes who deserved it the most. These athletes took accountability for their mistakes and are committed to represent themselves and our country with the great character and distinction we expect.”
Lochte, who returned home to Charlotte, North Carolina, has since backpedaled. He told NBC News’ Matt Lauer in a clip posted online that although a gun was drawn during the incident, it was not pointed at his head. He also said he “had too much to drink” that night and appeared to concede that he knew the armed guards were demanding money for the damage, not robbing them.
Still, Lochte maintained in the interview that he and his teammates were frightened because there was a gun involved.
Brazilian authorities recommended that Lochte and Feigen be charged with false reporting. Feigen, 26, agreed to donate approximately $11,000 to a Brazilian charity to avoid prosecution. He flew home to San Antonio, Texas, after making the payment.
Bentz and Conger, 21, returned home after giving statements to police. They claimed Lochte pulled a sign off a wall at the gas station, sparking a confrontation with the armed security guards.
All four swimmers have issued statements since the incident, apologizing for their behavior. Multiple sponsors, including Ralph Lauren and Speedo, have cut ties with Lochte as a result of the scandal.
Last month, the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Swimming released statements expressing disappointment in the athletes and pledging to further review the matter.