American swim star Ryan Lochte finally spoke out about the incident in Rio that landed him and his teammates in hot water this week, repeatedly telling NBC's Matt Lauer Saturday he "over-exaggerated" his initial account of a robbery in Rio and taking full responsibility for what happened to his teammates.
"I over-exaggerated that story and if I hadn't done that, we wouldn't be in this mess," Lochte said in the exclusive interview, a portion of which aired on NBC Saturday night.
At times emotional, Lochte offered an on-camera apology one day after apologizing on social media. The 12-time Olympic medalist said he's embarrassed over his "stupid" and "immature" mistake — embellishing a late-night encounter at a gas station to make him and his American teammates sound like victims of an armed robbery — and doesn't want to be remembered for it.
But in the 14 minutes of footage aired Saturday, Lochte did not admit to lying about the incident, as local police accused him of when they released damning surveillance footage. The remaining seven minutes of the interview will air on the "Today" Show Monday.
According to Rio de Janeiro police, Lochte and three other American swimmers vandalized a gas station bathroom after a night of partying last Sunday. The three were confronted by security guards, but initially told the media that the group was robbed at gunpoint, a story that capitalized on reports of spreading crime in the Olympic host city.
As police investigated discrepancies in the story, a judge ordered the passports of Lochte and a teammate be seized, though Lochte was already out of the country. The two other swimmers involved were pulled from a plane to the U.S. and held for questioning overnight before flying back.
Lochte now admits he left out or exaggerated details — like a gun being held to his head — in his initial accounts of the incident to NBC's Billy Bush and Matt Lauer.
Lauer asked Lochte why he embellished.
"I don't know why. It was still hours after the incident happened, I was still intoxicated," Lochte said. "I was still under that influence, and I'm not making being intoxicated an excuse ... I shouldn't have said that."
The NBC interview comes a day after he posted an apology on his Instagram account about the incident.
In it, Lochte said he should have been “more careful and candid” when he claimed to be the victim of a robbery during the Rio Olympics. He said it was traumatic to have been out late with his friends in a foreign country — with a language barrier — and to have had a stranger point a gun at him and demand money to allow him to leave.
"Regardless of the behavior of anyone else that night, I should have been much more responsible in how I handled myself and for that am sorry," Lochte said on Instagram.
Police said that fellow swimmer Gunnar Bentz told them Lochte pulled down a framed metal advertisement that was hanging on a brick wall and became belligerent after the guards drew their weapons.
Bentz, who was pulled off his plane with teammate Jack Conger, outlined his account to police in a statement issued Friday. The two returned to the United States Friday morning.
"After Jack and I both tugged at him in an attempt to get him to sit back down, Ryan and the security guards had a heated verbal exchange, but no physical contact was made," Bentz said in his statement.
Calling it an "unsettling, humbling and frightening experience," Conger reiterated Bentz's account in a statement he released Saturday, according to NBC News.
"Four of us took a taxi back to the Olympic Village, and on the way we pulled into a gas station to use the restroom, but ultimately relieved ourselves outside, for which I apologize. Ryan Lochte removed a poster from a nearby wall, which apparently alerted the gas station employees, leading to our being confronted by two armed security men," he said.
In exchange for his passport, James Feigen paid almost $11,000 for falsely reporting a crime. Bentz and Conger both returned to the United States Friday morning after being pulled off their plane the day before.
Lauer asked what Lochte felt about the police investigation's conclusion that the swimmers had vandalized the gas station they said they were robbed at.
"Whether you call it a robbery, whether you call it extortion or just paying for the damages, we don't know. All we know is there was a gun pointed in our direction and we were demanded to give money," Lochte said.
But Lochte told Lauer that seeing his teammates stuck in Rio for something he did made him feel like he let his team down.
"I don't want them to think that I left and left them dry, because they were my teammates, and I wanted to definitely be there," Lochte said.
The executive director of USA Swimming said this week that the organization does not condone the athletes' behavior and that it will look into the incident.
The United States Olympic Committee called the incident a "distracting ordeal in the midst of what should rightly be a celebration of excellence."
"The behavior of these athletes is not acceptable, nor does it represent the values of Team USA or the conduct of the vast majority of its members," said the statement from USOC CEO Scott Blackmun. "We will further review the matter, and any potential consequences for the athletes, when we return to the United States."
Lochte, contrite for distracting viewers in the U.S. and around the world from the Rio Games, said he can make it right at the 2020 Olympics in Toyko, should he be selected to represent the nation. But that's up to the USOC and USA Swimming, he said.
"I learned my lesson from this, I definitely did. I know these kind of shenanigans or whatever you call it will never happen again," he told Lauer.
He seemed particularly perturbed that little kids would think of him as the athlete who drunkenly vandalized a Brazilian gas station one night.
"I don't want them to look at me (like) 'He was a drunk frat boy' or anything like that. I don't want that. I want to be a role model for those little kids. And I know that I can change that," he said.