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Ryan Lochte posts apology for Rio controversy

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Ryan Lochte (right, with Michael Phelps).NYT

RIO DE JANEIRO — US Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte apologized Friday for his behavior surrounding an incident at a Rio de Janeiro gas station, saying he should have been more ''careful and candid'' about how he described what happened after a night of partying with his teammates.

But he didn't explain why he embellished details of an encounter with armed security guards and called it a robbery, and why he omitted to say that he and three teammates had vandalized a gas station restroom.

''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 in a lengthy post on his Instagram account. ''This was a situation that could and should have been avoided. I accept responsibility for my role in this happening and have learned some valuable lessons.''

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Whatever they were, for now, he's keeping them to himself.

The situation raises questions about the future for Lochte, who is planning to take time off from swimming but wants to return to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Usually known for his party boy image and love of the limelight, he now is facing a line of nervous sponsors, the possibility of legal charges in Brazil and sanctions from USA Swimming and the International Olympic Committee.

Lochte's 12 Olympic medals are second only to Michael Phelps among US male Olympians.

This time Lochte was only a small part of the show. He finished fifth in his only individual event and swam on the victorious 4 x 200-meter freestyle relay.

Instead, the biggest memory of the 32-year-old swimmer in Rio will be the grainy security video of him and teammates Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen exiting the gas station restroom and sitting on the ground, one with their hands up.

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Bentz and Conger were on their way home Friday after being held in Brazil to testify. The fourth, Jimmy Feigen, made a deal with a judge to make a $10,800 payment and leave the country, his lawyer said.

Local organizers and the mayor of Rio de Janeiro said they accepted Lochte's apology.

''My feeling is one of pity,'' Mayor Eduardo Paes said. ''They did not represent the American athletes that are here.''

USA Swimming is expected to convene its executive board to discuss likely punishment. Technically, the four could be fined, suspended or expelled.

This is Lochte's first major gaffe, and whatever sanctions the national governing body passes down could have little effect on the professional swimmer. He's already said he plans to take the first extensive break of his career following the Olympics and move from North Carolina to California. A suspension could keep him out of next year's world championships — often bereft of big stars following an Olympic year — and the Arena Pro Swim Series, a five-meet circuit in the US. But that would hardly impact Lochte should he decide to resume training for the 2020 Games.