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Speedo, three other sponsors drop Ryan Lochte

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 23-08-2016 A.J. Perez
Rio police said U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte lied about being held up at gunpoint Sunday morning. © Peter Casey, USA TODAY Sports Rio police said U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte lied about being held up at gunpoint Sunday morning.

Speedo was the first, announcing early Monday it dropped its sponsorship of embattled U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte. By the end of the day, three other companies also said they would cut ties with him.

The decisions to cut ties with Lochte come after a week-long saga that led to Lochte and three other swimmers to be questioned by Rio authorities after Lochte alleged they were robbed at gunpoint. Ralph Lauren and a laser hair removal company announced they would also sever their respective sponsor relationships with the 32-year-old swimmer.   

“While we have enjoyed a winning relationship with Ryan for over a decade and he has been an important member of the Speedo team, we cannot condone the behavior that is counter to the values this brand has long stood for,” Speedo USA said in a statement.

Ralph Lauren, which outfitted Team USA for the opening and closing ceremonies, told CNBC on Monday that it would not renew its current deal with Lochte. Lochte was one of the highlighted athletes on Ralph Lauren's website modeling Team USA gear. 

Syneron-Candela, the parent company of Gentle Hair Removal where Lochte served as a spokesperson, confirmed to USA TODAY Sports that it had cut Lochte loose. And, late Monday, airweave, a mattress company, said it had "ended its partnership" with Lochte.

"We hold our employees to high standards, and we expect the same of our business partners," Syneron-Candela said in a statement. "We wish Ryan well on his future endeavors and thank him for the time he spent supporting our brand.”

Speedo said it will donate a portion of Lochte’s $50,000 fee to the global charity Save The Children. 

Lochte originally told USA TODAY Sports that he and fellow American swimmers Jack Conger, Gunnar Bentz and Jimmy Feigen were pulled over while they were in a taxi by men with badges in the early morning hours of Aug. 14. Lochte said the men robbed them, an account that was eventually called into question by Rio police and a judge who ordered the four to remain in the country last Wednesday. 

Lochte made it back to the U.S. on Wednesday, while Conger, Bentz and Feigen remained in Brazil to face questions about what exactly occurred at the gas station where the incident took place. Police alleged the swimmers vandalized a bathroom and security guards at the gas station demanded the swimmers pay for the damage, which they did.

A USA TODAY Sports investigation called into question claims by law enforcement that the four swimmers vandalized the gas station, aside from ripping down a loosely attached sign.

Lochte, in an interview with NBC over the weekend, admitted he "over-exaggerated" some details. 

“It’s how you want to make it look like, whether you call it a robbery, whether you call it extortion or us paying just for the damages, we don’t know,” Lochte told NBC's Matt Lauer. “All we know is there was a gun pointed in our direction and we were demanded to give money.”

Last week, Speedo said it was following the incident and would not comment on an ongoing investigation.

Experts in the field of sponsorship and sports marketing expected this sort of fallout from Lochte's sponsors as the 12-time Olympic medalist walked back the parts of his armed robbery tale that he'd originally embellished.

“In this day and age, there’s one pretty important rule that anybody in the public eye should think about: Don’t lie,” said Joe Favorito, a sports marketing expert and professor at Columbia, on Friday. “We live in a world where everything is going to be exposed. Brands are always looking for honest and authentic representatives because there’s so much competition. There are so many Olympic athletes who you can choose from. You don’t need any nonsense.

Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing expert and executive creative director for Baker Street Advertising, also pointed out that Lochte, 32, is on the back end of his swimming career. He won just one medal at the Rio Games, as part of the 4x200-meter freestyle relay.

“Lochte’s shelf life was already limited as an endorser,” Dorfman said of this week's controversy. “He’s now just fallen off the shelf.”       

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